This week a strike situation started in one of the school districts in central Ohio. Workplace Issues Today(http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/library/research/worldofWorkNews/wit/index.html) from Cornell University’s Industrial Labor Relations Department has reported about strikes occurring all over the globe. Yesterday WIT reported Cambodian garment workers were striking for a wage increase and the website http://www.labourstart.org reported strikes occurring in other countries such as France, Germany, Greece, and Korea.
In addition, a lockout of 174 union members was reported in southwestern Ohio. The company asked for a decrease in pay and benefits, the union, as anybody or group will do in contract negotiations, countered the proposal. Both sides were willing to extend the existing contract, but after two weeks, the company decided to keep the workers from entering the premises.
Lockouts and strikes don’t have to occur. Strikes are usually the very last resort. These things occur because one side wants to exert power and control over the other side and there is an unwillingness to look at alternatives. Reading some of these stories is quite disheartening. Labor-management relations had made great strides over recent years but when you read some of these articles, it appears we’re regressing and going back many years. People who may have no idea about labor-management relations, economic conditions, politicians and many other factors have created such a split between workers and employers that it may take a long time before we can return to an era of labor-management cooperation.
Some of the strikes are over wages and benefits but not all of them. Some of them are about working conditions. Some strikes have been about workers having safe working conditions. The sad part about strikes and lockouts is everybody loses. Incomes are reduced. Revenue is lost. Customers may be lost and may never come back or relationships, not just between labor and management but within families and communities, can be destroyed. After the strike or lockout, it takes a very long time to heal wounds and develop trust again.
In the two Ohio cases, and in many cases, the money management will spend on replacement workers is a much bigger expense than the actual contractual agreements. Not only is there a direct cost to pay a company to bring in security guards and temporary workers but there’s an indirect cost. Temporary replacement workers will have to be trained, productivity will be lost because they won’t know how to make the product and they won’t have the commitment to make the product which also will reduce productivity and reduce the quality of the product or service. In addition, the money for the replacement workers will probably not stay local to help communities build. It will probably be spent elsewhere. All of this makes no sense but it emphasizes one side’s desire to exercise power and control over the other side.
There are so many other ways to resolve disputes. Coming up with multiple options together can yield some great results BUT both sides have to be willing to do that. By doing so, organizations may save money or become stronger with their new ideas. Labor and management can, and have, help each other out and by doing so they help build their relationship and they build the community in which they reside.
Last week our blog was on the need for leadership on both sides. It’s leadership that helps make decisions on resolving disputes. Do we want to use power and control as the means of settling disputes or can we figure out how we can work together?