Chapter 1 Introduction

Chapter 1 Introduction - Managing the Employment...

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Managing the Employment Relationship Chapter 1: Introduction Thomas R. Knight I. Work and Employment Most people have to work for a living. This fact has made work a central part of the human experience. Work is a favourite subject of stories, songs, cartoons and daily discussion. All too frequently, work is experienced as a burden – either because the work itself is experienced as meaningless (apart from making a living) or because the conditions under which the work is performed are unpleasant, dangerous or oppressive. Ideally, work should be a source of meaning and satisfaction in life (in addition to making a living), and for many this is true. Work takes many forms, of course, and is constantly changing as technologies, societies and economies evolve. At the most basic level, work has always been necessary for survival. In a purely agrarian economy, one’s own work focused on providing the basic necessities: food, shelter and clothing. To a certain extent, individuals who are able to produce a surplus beyond their own needs engage in trading or bartering to increase the range or quality of goods in their lives. Still, individuals in this economy are essentially "self – employed" and self – directed. Over time, the number of people engaged in such a simple and direct economy has, of course, dwindled as society became more and more urbanized and mechanized. With the development of industrial capitalism, increasingly large numbers of workers moved to growing cities in pursuit of "wage labour" in factories and services such as transportation. Rather than working for themselves, workers were now "employees" under the direction of employers and managers. Often there were many more workers than jobs and employers were able to exploit workers by subjecting them to horrible working conditions, long hours and low wages. There were no laws respecting minimum wages, child labour or workplace safety. Naturally, workers began to seek to form organizations – labour unions – in order to improve working conditions and prevent exploitation of labour. Equally naturally, perhaps, employers typically resisted, sometimes violently, the formation of unions. As we shall see, the struggle for union representation has spanned several centuries. Today, work is more mental than physical in many, if not all, industries and workplaces in Canada and elsewhere in the industrialized world. Organizations have become more complex and information technologies have transformed relationships within and between organizations. Continuing globalization of labour and product markets poses tough competitive challenges for employers and employees alike. These factors translate into new issues and opportunities in employment relations. Still, age- old issues of staffing, training and development, compensation, productivity management, health and safety and fair treatment remain. Moreover, the contexts of employment relations have become greatly more
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Chapter 1 Introduction - Managing the Employment...

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