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Waterfront dispute essay

Waterfront dispute is one of the biggest and the most important disputes in the history of Australia. The waterfront dispute of 1998 was an incredible tale of legal drama, violent confrontation, strange alliances, betrayals, family difference and nefarious deceit. The stakes were high: the economic viability of the company at the centre of the dispute, Patrick Stevedores, was at risk; the government was pursuing a cornerstone of its labour market reform and the breaking of unionisation on the docks; the Maritime Union of Australia and it’s supporter’s, were fighting for survival and the principle of freedom of association: the right to join a union and not be sacked for it. Everyone involved in this dispute faced problems. This dramatic battel between MUA and Patrick Stevedores represented the first major trial of strength between government and the unions.

As said by Tom Sheridan “History is important in understanding labour relations, particularly in those singular industries, notably coal mining and stevedoring, which often seem to challenge the old saw that if we forget history we will be condemned to repeat it again”, it is important that if we don’t remember what had happened and repeat it again we will responsible for another waterfront dispute in the future.

This dispute was not unavoidable. It could have been avoided if proper steps were taken to make it easier for both the parties to solve the dispute without dissolving personal interest of both the parties, in such a way that everyone gains something out of it rather than everyone loosing, like how it happened where the employees lost their jobs, employers a lot of money and the unions and government faced lots of problems. Some of the most important steps that could have helped are the proper human resource management practices by the stevedoring industry. If stevedoring industry would have taken proper steps and used proper human recourse practices it could have avoided lots of problems that it faced.

Role of Human Resource Managers to Avoid 1998 Waterfront Dispute

In today’s world Human Resource Manager play a very important role in industries. They have many jobs like recruiting, human resource planning, job analysis and design, selection and placement and many more. In waterfront dispute stevedoring industry could have used proper human resource management practices and with the help of human resource managers could have avoided the dispute. Here some of the points the managers could have concentrate in order to avoid the dispute are:
1. Managing Change
2. Handling Workplace Grievances And Disciplining Employees
3. Development; Training & Career

Managing Change:

“Managing change means managing peoples fear. Change is natural and good, but people’s reaction to change is unpredictable and irrational. It can be managed if done right”. Human resource mangers duty is to manage this change and let the employees feel comfortable and accept the change. Employees are usually feared of this change, they usually have negative attitude and perception towards change. They have different fears like losing their jobs, their status or their social security, afraid of a higher workload and many more.

The first effect of change on employees is negative these effects include fear, stress, frustration and denial of change. They are afraid of loosing something as they have incomplete information on how the change process is going to effect their personal situation in the terms of task, workload or responsibilities. Sometimes in changes there are job cuts and people who survive these cuts may also have negative attitude like feeling guilty because they still have the job while others became unemployed and other things which causes stress and thus lead to inefficient and ineffective work which will lead to lesser productivity of the company.
The managers need to keep all these in mind and try to achieve positive results and handle the change effectively. There are certain steps to be taken by the managers to manage change effectively they are:

· Understanding: The mangers have to do a proper study of the business environment, the organization and its culture and knowing the organizations capability to respond to critical factors and decide wether changes can be coped with and how they might be handled.
· Planning: The second step to be taken by the managers is to set the strategic direction, communicate at all levels and give a clear idea both to the organization and its people of where it is going and why.
· Implementing: The third step to be taken by the manager establishing a change programme, led by a good manager to make things happen and support people through training and development.
· Controlling the Change Process: Last but not the least the managers had to expect the unexpected, keep track of progress, continue to learn and improve from the experience.

Changes can occur because of many reasons. It could be due to new product developmet, introduction of new technology, change in work force, reduced productivity, product quality, satisfaction, commitment and many more. Change can happen anytime and in any organization and cause of anything the human resouse managers role is to undertand it and try to manage it so that everyone gains something or the other from it.

In Australian Waterfront Dispute of 1998 these mangers could have played a major role to avoid it to happen if stevedoing industry would have used proper human resource management practices. The stevedoring industry knew that there would be major changes in the industry because of the introduction of new technology and they knew that a lot of people would be left job less but didnt take any step. The employees used the help of unions to threaten the employers for better work facilities and other demands but the stevedoring industry with the help of govenment tried to get rid of the unions thus resulting in a big dispute in which everyone involved lost something .

If the human resource managers who were involved would have taken appropriate measures, they would have helped the employees to retain their jobs, the employes not to loose the huge sum of money they lost and the other parties as well. Some of the steps that would have helped the managers to avoid thes dipute are, they could have put up Voluntry redundancy plans by which the employees could have taken some proper benifits and awards and left the job themselves without creation such a big problem, they could have used Multi tasking for helping the employees to learn more skills and training them in different types of works and skills and helping them out, they could have Seeked new jobs for redundant employees by doing this the managers could have helped the employees at least of not loosing everything as they already have many industries in many fields they could have employed them there to help avoid this conflict.

Human resourse managers could have helped a lot to avoid this conflict they could have understood the changes that would have taken place and taken proper steps to help everyone involved in the dispute. This could have helped the stevedoring industry a lot.

Grievance is a statement given by an employee about a problem, concern or even a complaint that arises in the work place. These may arise may be mainly due to allocation of work, job design, performance management, a workplace communication or interpersonal conflict, an occupational health or safety issue, an allegation of discrimination within the meaning of the Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 including harassment, or a question, dispute or difficulty concerning the interpretation, application, or operation of an enterprise or any other agreement.

If the grievances of the employees are not resolved promptly, it may have a major impact in the organization. These may include problems like
· Lost productivity;
· Lower quality work, products and customer services;
· Distraction from corporate goals;
· Loss of confidence and communication between employees, managers and supervisors;
· Low morale and job satisfaction which can lead to industrial problems, increased absenteeism and increased staff turnover;
· Loss of reputation as an employer and service provider;
· Loss of reputation to the employee;
· Lost working time of everyone involved in dealing with a complaint; and
· The potential for legal action and damages.

Grievances and other issues rose by the employees need to be considered and effectively solved by the human resource managers. Grievances are just to deal with matters relating to an individual employee. The employees have got every right to take up any issue and report those problems to the management. The employer can also point out to any employee if the rules of the agreement are not followed. In some cases the use of grievance procedures can result in a recommendation that the employer take action through the disciplinary process. Unlike a grievance procedure, a discipline process deals with performance or conduct matters identified by the employer. If a grievance is raised during a discipline process, the grievance needs to be finalised but the disciplinary process should continue independently.

External support in dealing with grievances

The right of employees to seek appropriate external support and assistance to deal with their work-related concerns and grievances should be respected and incorporated into agency procedures. The employees should be made aware of the procedures of seeking and getting advice from the union and they should free to be represented by the union. People should be informed, when relevant, of their right to have an issue dealt with by an external organization such as the Anti-Discrimination Board or the Industrial Relations Commission.

It is the responsibility of the human resource managers to encourage employees to understand the agency’s procedures for resolving work-related concerns and grievances and providing timely and confidential assistance to the employees in order to make sure that no conflicts arise between the employees and the management. It is the duty of the employees to take prompt action on work-related issues if they are not satisfied or feel that there is anything wrong with the agency’s procedures.

As there are changes occurring in the workplace environment, organizations must adopt to that change in order to avoid conflicts between the employees and the employers. The Human Resource manager should ensure that they show considerable involvement in the selecting the right employees and providing them the right set of policies and procedures. He should also possess the ability to strategically assess the form of employment instrument that will be best suitable for the workers. By taking all these into consideration, the chances of arousal of industrial conflict in an organization can be avoided.

In the waterfront dispute, if the Human resource managers had been more vigilant about all the factors that need to be considered with regard to disputes with employees, then the industrial dispute that had led to during the waterfront could have been avoided. It is just that the employers were not aware of the requirements of the employees because of which the union had to rely on the police to remove pickets from the workplace. But if the problems were resolved between the employers and employees among themselves, then it would not have taken them so far to the police and disputations. The employees were also not very much aware of the policies of the organization. It is the human resource manager who is accountable for all these issues relating to problems in the work for the employees. The manager should have given some other opportunities for the employees as well if the unions alone were not able to solve the problem. They should have provided them with some other high authority or an agency that will be the right person to effectively understand and resolve the problems. It is the responsibility of him to ensure that all employees are aware of the policies and procedures of the unions and agencies, so that there will not be any conflicts in the future due to this. Employees need to be aware of the options available to them in a strike situation. If strikes are allowed to continue uncontrollably, there will be no incentives for employers and unions to deal with their problems constructively, which is the key issue on the waterfront. Therefore, if the human resource managers had effectively implemented the tools to select the employees, made them aware of the policies and considered their grievances and resolved them in order to grow satisfaction from employees and also to gain profitability, then it would not have been a necessity for the union to request the police to remove pickets. Thereby, measures could have been taken to avoid the dispute.

Development; Training & Career

Employee development is a key component of a company’s human resource management efforts. It is a necessary component of a company’s efforts to improve quality, to meet the challenges of global competition and social change, and to incorporate technological advances and changes in work design. Also companies (and their employees) have to constantly learn and change, to meet changing customers needs and compete in the ever changing markets, the emphasis placed on training and development has increased.

According to psychology, every one has some psychological needs & one of them is career and development accompanied with proper training. To retain and motivate employees, companies need to provide a system to identify and meet employee’s development needs.

Measuring and managing performance is also an important function of HR management. HR manager must be aware of best suitable method of performance measure for employees and once performance is measured a major component of a manager job’s is to feed that performance information back to employees in a way that result in improved performance rather than defensiveness and decreased motivation. Mangers should also take appropriate action on the cause of poor performance, whether it is ability or motivation or both.

The waterfront dispute can be seen as direct failure of human resource policies of the Patrick Stevedores employed at that time. The management practices of the employer, Patrick Stevedores was not able to motivate the employees indeed they were responsible for increasing the fear to lost the job among the employees. It is quit obvious that management was not serious towards fulfilling the psychological needs of the employees that were quit related to work practices. So if the HR management in relation of development, training & career of the employees would have done the serious and sincere efforts, this dispute could be avoided.

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