In this 21st Century, the next face of innovation is to establish Labour-Management-Cooperation as the fulcrum around which the legal and social existence of both Labour and Management is built. It is imperative that Labour-Management-Cooperation (LMC) succeeds and it cannot be seen as a fad, a “flavour of the millennium” or another new management technique.
LMC is not a technique; it is a belief in the value of collaboration that is reflected in the attitudes, the work processes, and indeed the very structure of the organisation. To this end, it is essential that Labour and Management work together to establish permanent mechanisms to ensure the permanence of their collaboration and the benefits that it entails.
One permanent mechanism that is common is called a Labour-Management-Committee (LMC).
A Labour-Management-Committee is comprised of workers and managers who meet periodically to discover, discuss and resolve ongoing issues or problems that affect the workplace. As emphasised earlier, both top management and union leaders must be committed to the success of the Committee.
An outside impartial professional facilitator often facilitates the first several meetings of the Labour-Management-Committee. At these initial meetings, the facilitator helps the parties determine ground rules such as who will represent each side, where and when meetings will be held, procedures for introducing agenda items, who will chair the meetings, how the meeting will be reported to constituents, and general rules of conduct.
Equally important, at these first few meetings the facilitator set the protocol or ground rules for the conversation. These include among others the GHOST principles (that parties should speak gently, be honest about their assertions, be open to the other persons view, be specific to the issues at stake and talk). He helps parties to brainstorm over issues, generate options and also set criteria for reaching consensus-(decision making). Both Labour and Management must practice deep and active listening and speaking skills, respect for other points-of-view (pov) and allowing others to express their ideas free from judgment and criticism. The facilitator may also work on more advanced techniques of problem-solving and decision-making.
Following the first few meetings, at a point that the facilitator deems appropriate, the parties may begin to self-facilitate their meetings. They are at liberty to always call on a facilitator when the Labour-Management-Committee hits particularly thorny issues, like:
- Deep-seated mistrust between management and the unions
- Sale of specialized service (e.g., sub-contracting)
- Job assignments/frequent rotations
- Changing role of supervisors
- Safety Programme and repercussions for failure to follow the programme
- Negotiation, and
- Identification of in-house competencies and job skills needed, among others.
A lot of other permanent mechanisms abound. For example, at Singapore’s Matsushita Refrigeration Industries, Labour-Management-Cooperation is permanently institutionalized in not just one, but also a series of standing bodies such as:
- quarterly dialogue sessions between top management and union leaders to discuss, among others, information on corporate performance and prospects, broad issues relating to skills training, workplace safety and health, as well as welfare and benefits and, finally, the implementation of key national initiatives and programmes to enhance workers’ employability, productivity and cost-competitiveness;
- monthly HR management-union meetings to discuss specific HRM policies as well as grievances and workplace disputes; monthly general morning conversations with executives and union representatives to discuss the company’s financial status, quality results, as well as successful departmental projects;
- workplace and welfare committees and other recreational events to provide an added channel for Labour-Management collaboration and worker involvement in decision-making. As well as an added opportunity for social interaction between management, union and workers.
Ultimately it is interesting to note that permanent mechanisms to foster Labour-Management-Cooperation come in many different forms, and they must be able to survive changes in top union and management leadership. They must not be viewed as temporary fads promoted by one or the other side. Rather they must both reflect and promote a change in mentality that recognises the valuable contribution of everyone in the organisation, no matter where they stand in the organisational “hierarchy.”