The repercussions of the current global financial crisis which has been described as the worse of its kind in living history have been extremely severe. The closure of many business, the high incidence of lay off or redundancy of employees, salary cuts and the restructuring of enterprises, are only but some of the hard hitting measures and decisions that have had to be taken by employers.
Both employers and employees have been impacted in one way or another. The current global melt down has constrained the ability of companies to invest in their enterprises, so as to grow and develop them. It has also inhibited them from investing in their human resource.
It is blamed for the significant reduction in the emphasis placed on the further education of employees through training and retraining, and the building of their capacity through exposure to personal development programmes.
It is understandable that with scarce resources, employers are challenged to make some difficult decisions. Most would argue that it is imperative to channel the available funds to keep the business afloat, so as to maintain both viability and competitiveness.
Whilst all of this important, it would be short-sighted if they did not place a premium on the human resource. It must be recognised that the human resource along with capital are required to drive a successful business. Whereas, capital and equipment will lend to the efficiency of any enterprise, there is no business that is known to exist without labour.
Employers should be conscious of the importance of labour, and therefore should not treat the labour component as the Cinderella of the business. Business decisions ought not to be taken without giving consideration to the interest of the employees.
It is to be expected that in the case of the pending closure of a business, that there is consultation with the employees and/or their representative trade union. There is always the possibility that where there is full disclosure, that some possible short or medium terms solutions could be found to keep the doors of the business open, and/or to minimize or cushion the impact that the pending closure could have on the employees.
Employers ought to be aware that they have nothing to lose by taking employees or their representative body into confidence. In this day and age when dialogue, collaboration and consultation are being promoted as the ideal, it is nothing less than backward thinking to conjure the idea that trade unions should be avoided.
Those who promote the idea that they are adversarial, confrontational and tend to engage in bullying tactics, need to come to grips with the evolving dynamics that have change the employer/employee relationship; which invariably extends to the relationship of the employer and the trade union.
There is an important role to play by representative bodies of employers where ever they exist. They have a responsibility to impress upon their members the importance of treating workers as a valued resource. To start with, communication is to be seen as fundamental to a good workplace relationship.
Staff involvement in the decision making process should be an accepted practice. If staff members are expected to play a meaningful role in the building of a business, then they must be seen as valuable partners and not simply means of production.
Employers who are not conscious of the fact that the staff through its productivity, efficiency, contribution of ideas, quality work and service, contribute to the overall success and image of the enterprise; regrettably have missed the boat.
It is very likely that where this consciousness is lacking within any enterprise, that enterprise will be amongst those that are forced to close their doors as the economic recession deepens.
* Dennis De Peiza is a Labour Management Consultant with Regional Management Services Inc.
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