The Role of Labor Unions in Promoting Sound Industrial Relations: A Case Study of St. George Brewery

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Sound industrial relations systems support the effort of building competitive advantage. St. George Brewery managed to establish and maintain relatively better industrial relations systems. The management, union, and a significant proportion of employees have positive attitude to each other. The management encourages unionization. It supports the union in many ways. The management considers the union as consultant on matters of human resource management. There is a spirit of working in a manner of consultation, cooperation, and collaboration. The union-management relation is based on pluralistic approach. The union is accepted by all as legitimate representative of employees. In the past five years, the company has no record of labor disputes that went to external parties such as Conciliators, Labor Relations Board, or Labor Courts for resolution. They believe in resolving industrial disputes and conflicts internally. The majority of workers have trust and confidence in the union. There is 100% union density. The efforts exerted by the union enabled workers to secure annual salary increment, bonus, "Zenbil" system (every four months adjustment of salary), 24-hours life insurance, solidarity fund to cover medical expense including medication abroad as deemed necessary, etc ... The union established and is operating a share company. It is generating its own income through different business lines. It is providing employees financial support every holiday, when an employee is pensioned and suspended from work due to some reasons. The union and workers widely share the idea that attaining more and more benefits is a function of increased productivity, profitability and the growth of the company. The management and majority of employees believe that the union h~s contributed to establishing and maintaining peaceful industrial relations. On average, combining results of the various measurement variables, 71.9% of the respondents reported that the union is strong and the existence of it benefits employees in improving the economic and social life of employees. The interaction of union and management in a matured and rational manner contributed in this regard. Educational mix of the union officials is relatively better than what we commonly experience. An executive member is one of the union officials. The industrial relations situation of the company can be modeled as the amalgamation of rights and obligations based relations, mutual understanding that more benefits are dependent on increased productivity, . profitability, and growth of the company, and increased common interest between workers and executives. Union officials and some segment of workers reported that there are bits of problems on areas of recruitment, promotion, and performance evaluation. Some said the level of communication is not enough. Some even reported dissatisfaction with the performance of the union. In order to keep the system working and fill these gaps the company may systematically introduce policies and practice of ongoing career planning and development, open and transparent communication, regular and systematic performance planning and development systems and more workers' participation and involvement through Quality of Work Life (QWL) programs.



George Brewery, Industrial Relations