In the past, matters affecting the employees were only discussed by the corporate employers or at times individual employers made their decisions about the jobs offered to employees without consulting one another. This resulted in a range of working conditions on the same job giving employees different attitudes. As a result dislike for some jobs developed and eventually fall-out of employees from jobs was very high. (dol.govt.nz)
This resulted in many incidents whereby the employees were exploited by the employers since conditions for the job were very strict. For example, an employer would decide whether or not to suck an employee without notice or any form of warning. As a result, the employees were petrified to a point that even fighting for some of their basic rights like healthy working conditions and better pay became a problem. As a result, the employees decided to form a forum to fight for their rights and campaign against oppressive employment.
After formation of such employee organizations (e.g. civil servants associations), the voice of the employees became a powerful tool in fighting for their rights. As a result, the employers had to listen to their employees and find the best responses to their pleas (Government of New Zealand, 1996). To make such associations (employee associations) even more powerful, governments enacted Acts in their constitutions to help the employees be protected by the law in case they were to hold peaceful demonstrations (Kathleen, 2010). This was incorporated in human freedom of association and expression.
In search for solutions to most employer-employee collisions, governments came up with forums to bring the employers and the employees on a round table and discuss key issues. Among the key issues discussed in such forums are: employee working conditions, employee retrenchment and compensation schemes in case of untimely retrenchment and wage pay for the employees. Most of these articles and rights are discussed in what can be termed as employer-employee participation in employment decisions.
In this article, employees are allowed to contribute on what they are ready to earn for a certain job. This is mostly since the jobs which are new in the market are very technical and the requirements are also very specific. This article mainly gives details of the best democratically agreed upon pay on matters pertaining to working conditions, time the task is accomplished and wage pay per hour (David, 2005). The skills also appear to play an important role in the decisions made pertaining to the wage pay. Digging deeper into this article, it appears that the most discussed types of labor supply are the skilled supplies. This leaves the unskilled and semi-skilled employees at the mercy of their employers. To help cover even these people in the labor pool, the Act uses the other two articles and gives the employees freedom to join any employee union without restriction by their employers. These unions have been empowered by the governments to push for their members’ rights and oversee the fact that they are not exploited by employees.
Work place article
This is the largest article in the Act and deals mainly with the health and safety conditions of the employees. In this article, the employees are allowed to report any unhealthy conditions to their employers and demand the place to be made better for operation. This covers even insurance in case any form of health hazards occur to the employees while in their places of operation. The safety part covers the employees who work under hazardous conditions. For example, employees in the manufacturing industry are insured against any risk that might occur in the work place (Robert, 2006). The main contents of the article include:
- Employee representation
- Power of employees to vote their representatives
- Employee participation in matters pertaining to healthy and safe working conditions.
Having discussed such articles which are the most relevant to all employees, I would like to branch to employee participation in New Zealand. This country is considered part of the west but employee participation seems to have taken root only recently thus it is reliable to use it as the main object of discussion and compare it to other European countries which presumably had employee participation adopted earlier like Nether lands and UK (Delaney, 1996).
Employee participation in New Zealand
After an analysis of a number of articles about employee participation in this country, it is clear that this concept is still in its infancy in the country. The main concern of the article is outlined by the ministry of labor whereby the country first acknowledges that employees are a very valuable set of people in any working environment due to the wide knowledge base they have about the work place. For this condition, the article outlines what the employers must do to ensure employee participation mostly in improving the working conditions and safety of the workers. Some of the main points that the employers must do include:
- Employers must allow their employees to contribute information about the safety of their working conditions.
- Any employer with more than 30 employees must come up with an employee participation scheme whereby the employees will be given a chance to contribute towards factors affecting their safety and health while in the work place. These schemes also allow the employees to petition even for their salaries and other factors like leaves and retrenchment in case it is announced.
- Contribute greatly towards greatly improving the working conditions of the employees.
- Allow improvement where there ought to be improvement.
Similarly, the article also outlines some of the optional activities that the employers can also do so as to help in the process of enhancing employee participation. The key points include:
- Take the lead in encouraging the employees to elect their representatives to the health and safety organizations.
- Make healthy and safe work places your habit
- Encourage the employees to contribute greatly towards improving their working conditions by airing their views and complains even before the situation in the work place becomes worse.
Having covered an overview of the article released by the ministry of labor in that country, let us explore additional materials on the same issue from the country.
If there is no direct agreement between the employers and the employees
In most situations, employers and employees do not come to a solid agreement. This is mainly because the employees are more than the employers and forums for such meetings are usually charged with tension. This is due to the conflicting views held by employers and employees on the same issues. To resolve such a situation, the government has allowed establishment of employee and employer unions. These unions have been charged with the duty of discussing matters pertaining to the point of conflicts where the employers and employees are allowed to send their representatives. These representatives bargain on the fairest deal and then explain to their members giving even the reasons which led to the agreement and how the goal will be achieved.
Who are health and safety representatives and their work?
According to the Act in the constitution, it is clear that the employees choose their representative on this issue. The representative acts as the spokesperson of the whole employee group that chose him/her. As a result, this person is bound to make decisions on what should be done if a certain calamity occurs. So as to enhance safe and healthy working conditions, this person is also entitled to request the employer to make certain bargains or purchases so as to improve the working conditions of the employees. In an attempt to ensure that the employees are well equipped with information on how to deal with certain risks in their working environment, this person is also allowed to have training and then in return train the employees. These training sessions are paid for and the employer ensures that all his/her employees attend the sessions offered by the representative. This increases employee participation and improvement of working conditions (Farris, 2002).
Formation of unions to cover the task forces
This is mostly done as per according to the legislation of the country. Looking at this country which is still in its infancy in employee legislation, the formation of unions is allowed by the law and is mostly within these guidelines forming it does it operate. This means that the unions have been given powers to collectively represent employers or employees without considering their membership in some circumstances. This allows for universal consideration and employee participation since selective approach does not fully allow the employees who are not union members to air their views (Department of Labor, New Zealand 2006).
Employee participation in the country regardless of employee membership to a union
In my personal opinion on this issue in New Zealand, I can claim that the law allows an employee to participate actively in contributing towards the success and safety of the employment under which he/she is recruited. This disputes the idea of locking out employees in the informal sector as it is in some countries. This also allows for the government to have an updated balance in employee treatment regardless of the sector of operation in the economy. This is provided for in the article so as to curb employers who have less than 30 employees from holding back the rights of the employees to have safe and healthy working conditions. On such cases, the article allows for employees to join others in unions so that their voices can be heard. This helps strengthen employee participation even in areas where employees may be less than the required number to have a health and safety representative (Douglas, 1995).
Having closely examined some of the contemporary aspects of this article of the New Zealand constitution, let us also find the possible aspects that make me feel that employee participation is still in its infancy in this country. The first element is the incompleteness of the article to touch on all matters affecting the employee. After an analysis of some New Zealand companies employee participation forums, the only thing that is prominent is employee health and safety. This means that the employees are only closely catered for in terms of working conditions. What of the main course of conflict between employers and employees in the world: wage pay? This issue is scantly illuminated, if there is any form of elaboration it, and according to my personal observation this is the main course of conflict. It is possible for an employer to provide very good working conditions to the employees but have very little wage pay. This results in more problems since the employer does not consider personal needs of the employee. This can be attributed to the fact that employees are not allowed to contribute in any way towards their salary levels and what facilitates the levels (Francis, P. 1996). Though this might be claimed to the work of the unions, the employers and employees should have direct contact on such matters since in most informal sector the employer and the employee negotiate face to face on the wage pay.
The other factor that makes me feel this article to be inadequate is the element of retrenchment. In most cases, economic recessions result in many employees losing their jobs. This results in increase in unemployment or disguised unemployment where the employees agree to have their salaries reduced so as to fit in the current economic situation (Food and Beverage Taskforce 2006). This issue becomes a means of the employers to oppress their employees since if an economic boom does not result in increase in their pay levels as the recession results in decrease. In some cases, the recession may be too severe causing the employees to be retrenched (Feinberg, 2007). What is their voice in fighting for the benefits or compensation? This would act as a very good question in determining employee participation in the country.
Employee participation in European Union countries and the west
Taking a close look at UK, three main aspects of this article are considered. The rationales considered are the economic rationale, social rationale and the government rationale. This helps balance the three so as to ensure that the employees are fully heard and considered by their employers. Taking a look at the economic aspect, most companies in the UK have registered great performance due to the employee participation forums which also dictate how employees should conduct themselves in case of anything. This also puts into consideration the aspect of financial participation. Under this aspect of employee participation, the employees are able to give their preferred wage pay (Walter, 2005). As a result, the stakeholders in labor supply take time to look into the grievances and provide the best bargain. As a result, the wage pay is reviewed regularly making demonstrations and boycotts due to poor pay a rare phenomenon (Knudsen, 1995). Closely related to social participation is the involvement of employees in social decision affecting the employees. This gives the employees very ample time when a certain social event has occurred and gives the procedures to follow. As a result, there are minimal cases of conflict between the employers and the employees. The case of health and employee safety is also covered in this section (Knudsen, 2009). The last aspect involving the government, the UK government is very conscious of the employee participation in matters pertaining to the economy. As a result, the employees have been supported and protected by the law while giving their grievances. This is done mostly in unions which are also formed under the constitution. The unions basically have a very high proportion of the total employee number making the number of independent employees very low. This has greatly increased the power of the employees in participating in decisions affecting them (Katz, 1985).
A similar look at Netherlands reveals similar employee participation as in UK. However, the number of employees in unions in the Netherlands is very low (22%) while the majority is in the national union of employees. This indicates that employee participation in the Netherlands is very high, I can claim higher than in UK. This participation deals mostly with employee safety, working condition and wage pay (Guthrie, 2001).
Lastly on the US, employee participation appears to trace a similar trend as in UK but has a hybrid system where representatives as in New Zealand are used. This allows for the employees to air their views even on the structure of the management and in some instances choose the directors to take lead them in the company. This shows that the employees have a very high participation in all matters affecting the business (Harris, 2004).
Comparing and contrasting New Zealand and the rest of the west, there are some clear differences. The main difference lies in the way employee participation is handled in New Zealand and the rest o the West. To begin with, the west is appears to rely heavily on employee participation to make critical decisions on matters pertaining to their economies (Ritchie, 2000). This is supported by the cases of Netherlands and UK. The US also evidences the same by its reliance on this hybrid structure whose backbone is employee participation in the economy.
The major similarity is the way employee participation is treated in the whole of the west, region of concern (New Zealand included). It is protected by the law and enforced by the individual constitutions. This can be claimed to contribute greatly towards use of unions in all the named countries to petition for the claims of the employees. The other similarity is the use of representative system in unions to present the views of the employees on the grass root. This is evident in all countries regardless of the employees being members of the unions of other groups (Hussein, 1995).
In conclusion, employee participation is very important in making decision affecting the employees. This is because it is the employees who are on the ground thus have enough knowledge to explain fully what is happening on the ground. This allows them to be very vital sources of information in employment forums. They should also be protected by the law and their grievances looked into in all aspects not only from one perspective as it appears to be the case in New Zealand.
Government of New Zealand, 1996. Managing health and safety retrieved from http://osh.govt.nz/publications/booklets/managing-health-safety-guide/08.asp
Secretary in the ministry of labor, 1999. Change to the health and safety in employment Act: employee participation. Retrieved from http://www.osh.govt.nz/publications/hseamend-cabinet/cabinet-participation010717.pdf
Robert S. 2006. The fundamentals of health and safety: employee participation, retrieved from http://www.safeguard.co.nz/resources/guides/Guide96.pdf
Employee participation retrieved from http://www.dol.govt.nz/infozone/businessessentials/safety/plan/participation.asp
David W.2005. The impact of representative employee participation on work environment and business outcome in hotel industry. Alborg University Press
Kathleen R. 2010. The impact of employee participation on organizational effectiveness and wellbeing: cases from New Zealand. Auckland University of Technology
Delaney, J. 1996. The impact of human resource management practices on perceptions of organizational performance. Academy of Management Journal, 39(4), 949-969.
Ritchie, J. 2000. Organizational values: The inside view of service productivity. Journal of Business Research, 47(2), 91-107.
Douglas, C. 1995. Worker Participation and Productivity in Labour-Managed and Participatory Capitalist Firms: A Meta-Analysis. Industrial and Labour Relations Review, 49(1), 58-77.
Francis, P. 1996. Organize and Survive: Unions and Health and Safety: A Case Study of an Engineering Unionized Workforce. Employee Relations, 18(2), 5 - 88.
Farris, D. 2002. Are transformed workplaces more productively efficient? Journal of Economic Issues, 36(3), 659-670.
Feinberg D. 2007, Unions and union membership in New Zealand: Annual review for 2005, New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations, 32(3): 31-39.
Food and Beverage Taskforce 2006. Food and Beverage Sector Engagement Strategy, 2005-2006, NZ Trade and Enterprise.
Forth, J. 2008. Workplace performance: a comparison of subjective and objective measures in the 2004 Employment Relations Survey. Industrial Relations Journal, 39(2), 104-123.
Guthrie, J. 2001. High-involvement work practices, turnover, and productivity: Evidence from New Zealand. Academy of Management Journal, 44(1), 180-190.
Harris, P. 2004. From Health and Safety to Employee Participation? The Impact of the New Zealand Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Act (2002). International Employment Relations Review, 10(1), 1-12.
Hussein, M. 1995. The impact of human resource management practices on turnover, productivity and corporate financial performance. Academy of Management Journal, 38(3), 635-672.
Katz, H. 1985. Assessing the effects of industrial relations systems and efforts to improve the quality of working life on organizational effectiveness. Academy of Management Journal, 28(3), 509-526.
Knudsen, H. (1995). Employee Participation in Europe. Sage Publishers
Knudsen, H. 2009. In Control? The influence of employee participation on the quality of the work environment. Paper presented to 15th World Congress of International Industrial Relations
Walter, D. 2005. The role and effectiveness of safety representatives in Influencing workplace health and safety. Research Report 363. UK Health and Safety Executive Press