Remote Working vs HR : Employment Relations and Collective bargaining

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I recently came across a book about Employment Relations (ER) titled “A Very Short, Interesting and Cheap Book About Employment Relations.

This raised some questions on what the effects of remote working might have in the future on employee-employer relationships and collective bargaining. 

Overview of ER and collective bargaining

Before I get to these questions, I want to present an overview of ER and collective bargaining. My focus is on employee/employer relationships for individual workers who have signed an employment contract. 

In the book, the authors interestingly highlight that the process of transforming individual worker interests into a collective is a challenging task.

This is because individual workers bring a variety of subjective interests into the workplace that they are often strategically trade-off. Some workers will accept low pay for the pleasant conditions of work, whereas others may seek the opposite. Organizing different interests of this sort is difficult.

On the other hand, the authors state that employers have less difficulty pursuing their interests because their singular and easily identifiable objective is focused on a positive rate of return on investment. 

The pre-Covid 19 structural settings of the workplace were designed and favorable to the collective union and collaboration of individual employees. However, the growth of remote working –  which is one of the features of present-day employment – limits the shared experience of work often necessary to promote collective union.

Future issues

Albeit, employment relationships are different across the world. It will be interesting to see, however, how ER evolves in the future due to remote working.

This is especially important in Switzerland where collective bargaining between employees and employers is obligatory, and collective staff agreements must be produced every five years. Some of the questions that will need to be answered include:

  • Because of the increase in remote working, how will this affect ER and collective bargaining?
  • How will remote working affect the employee-employer relationship and what role will HR play?
  • Employee engagement vs employee voice – how can HR channel the similarities while maintaining the differences?
  • Will social media be the future tool of employee unionism and will there be more collective activity on social media?
  • Pandemic redundancies – is the role of the government diminishing in ER?

Sources: 

A very short, interesting, and cheap book about employment relations (Dundon, T., Cullinane, N., Wilkinson, A. 2017)

Further Reading:

Human Resources Development: Why? by 

Patrick Nicollier: Humanitarian and Global Fund’s HR Director by

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Abiola Enitan Abiola Enitan

I am curious about the continuing convergence between technology and people, and its effects on culture.

Multi-faceted professional with 10 years of experience living, studying and working in international environments (Europe and Africa). Particular industry experience in HR, project and change management across consulting, financial institutions, international organisations, and NGOs.

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