Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Managerial discretion

Although rarely examined explicitly within the literature on managing human resources, the fundamental problem at the heart of industrial relations practices is one of interests. Lack of comparative power is of issue for workers because their interests are formed through belonging to the working class who produce collectively far more capital than they own or control.

The exploitation of workers by a powerful minority who control the majority of capital and the processes of production, forces conflict to the centre of the employment relationship as employer and employee interests collide, rendering the employer-employee relations inherently conflictual.

In this sense, both unitarism and pluralism may be seen as variants on a managerial perspective. By contrast, Marxist industrial relations is concerned with the challenging and resisting of managerial control by workers and, in an educational setting, collective efforts to deflect "the educational process away from any simple reproduction of dominant bourgeois values".

The fight against oppressive managerial control is a fight against capitalism itself, as it is capitalism, not any natural force, that accords false 'rights' to management to direct production, while denying an equivalent right to the worker to exercise control over the organisation of
production, either individually or collectively.

Discretion is thus such an important issue for Industrial Relations because it is the modality by which senior managers, representing the power and authority of the employer, manifest his/her interests in the employment relationship. It is the whole system of industrial relations which accords varying degrees of rights and responsibilities to managers in determining employment issues.

An overemphasis on managerial discretion is harmful due to its tendency to alienate employees as labour commodities.

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