The cries of workplace injustices are commonplace in every continent of the earth. This remains the case irrespective of whatever legislation is passed to protect workers. It seems almost a hapless case in attempting to address this trend.
It is usual to ascribe workplace injustices to employers, who are often accused of acting in high-handed and/or inappropriate ways. Though they may be rightly accused, it would definitely be a myth to ascribe this behaviour only to employers or management.
This can be justified based on the fact that workplace injustices are associated with discrimination, harassment and bullying. Surely employers, management and employees can be accused as perpetrators of such acts.
It is true to state that workplace injustices manifest themselves in many forms. Researchers have tended to lay the blame for this behaviour squarely at the feet of employers and management. They link the actions of employers and management to what they referred to as procedural injustices. This has to do with decisions which are made for a group of employees.
Such actions are further described as distributive injustices or the perceived fairness of outcome distributions such as bonuses and pay raises.
Informational injustices has been identified as another form in which workplace injustices present themselves. This is about providing adequate and honest explanations for company decisions.
The third and most interesting is that of perceived fairness, which is associated with treating individuals with dignity, respect and courtesy by supervisors or administrators.
Based on the impact that any perceived action could have on an employee or group of employees, there is great cause for concern. It can all start with the psychological distress that is often caused by an injustice.
According to Chester Spell, Professor of Management at Rutgers University: “Psychological distress is often caused by an injustice, either real or perceived, which can lead to depression, anxiety, irritability, exhaustion and disengagement from fellow workers.”
What stands out is the fact that at the end of the day an injustice can be perceived and taken as being personally directed at an individual.
The society should therefore not be alarmed when employees at a workplace resort to taking a form of industrial action in response to an injustice, however real or perceived. The only regret is that in some instances the public and other interests are inconvenienced. It is often a small price that has to be made, so that those who have been wronged can have justice served.
The point had earlier been made that both management and employees are equally guilty of injustices. But where does it all lead? This answer lies in the observation that “violations are not limited to formal rules but also include breaches of social norms and etiquette. For example, when bosses and coworkers made promises and then break them, or even lie outright, the victims may be motivated to avenged such wrongs.” (Bies &Tripp, 1996).
In this instance, the answer is not violence, as this is not preached or practised by the trade union movement. The response is to take forms of protest action, the ultimate of which is to withhold labour.
The recent proclamation the Employment’s Right Act in Barbados will serve the purpose of ensuring that the injustice of the unfair dismissal of workers becomes a thing of the past. It certainly will not arrest the action of a security guard company on the island, which has resorted to punishing its employees by making it mandatory for them to have $5 deducted from their wage as a fee for having the employee’s wages deposited into a bank account; other than that of the company’s bankers.
* Dennis De Peiza is a Labour Management Consultant with Regional Management Services Inc.
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