Employment relations arise when an employee supplies skills and labour to the employer in return for payment.
This two-way process is the basis of employment contract where the disputes between employees and their employer happen.
For years, there have been continuous disputes over the terms and conditions of employment. The battle has never ceased as disputes keep emerging in many organisations, adding on unresolved existing disputes.
There has been an increase in government and other independent bodies’ intervention on employer-employee relations since the early 20th Century when the government regulations-including the Employment Act (2000), Occupation, Safety and Health Act (1997), Compensation Act (2000) and Labour Relations Act (1996)-were introduced in the country.
Many independent bodies, such as trade unions and Employers Consultative Association of Malawi (Ecam) have taken a step ahead on the rights and duties of the employer and employee.
There are various independent employer and employee bodies in the country which duplicate their duties within the area of responsibility.
It is very unfortunate that despite a multiplicity of these organisations in the country, there is still unproductivity and tainted relationship between the employers and employees.
These unhealthy employment relations have caused devastating and unfavourable consequences in working places, paralysing service delivery in affected setups.
This has also given rise to an adverse economic situation where disagreements between the parties yields unfruitful consequences, such employee strikes, sit-ins, downsizing, lock-ups and closure of companies.
As we are trying to find out the problems militating against a healthy employer- employee relationship and the instruments for enhancing these ties, it is clear that some disputes have existed from the day an employer hired the first employee in the organisation.
The disagreements have been there unresolved and have adversely affected their work relations. There are various causes of disagreements, but pay seems to be the major factor causing disputes involving employees, employers and trade unions.
This includes employees demanding for increase in wage rate or bonuses, restoration of pay differentials, special rates for specific jobs and guaranteed earnings while the employer strives for profits.
The different objectives-pay rise and high profit-are the foundation of the unhealthy employer-employee relationship. There no formula which can solve these problems simultaneously.
How can we reconcile the two parallel structures with two different objectives?
As the economy changes in the country and across the globe, the employer’s demand to come up with a suitable product increases and the employee’s demand to qualify for a better standard of living also increases.
Employers’ profits or losses depend on employees who provide the human resources that drive the physical capital to come up with the desired goods and services.
If the employees’ demands are not well tackled, employees go slow and pay little or no attention to the guidelines for handling materials used for making products. This culminates to low turnover and low profit.
In any institution-parastatal, private or public-employees have a great impact on the output and daily affairs of the workplace.
Employer-employee relationship has a sway on productivity and success.
There is a widespread belief that productivity improvements can only be achieved through a fundamental reform in the area of employer-employee relations.
These fundamental reforms can also be achieved by redrawing the parallel objectives which are driven by employer on one hand and employee on the other.
There are many cases pending at the Industrial Relations Court involving both the private and public sector.
The causes of all these cases reflect on the unhygienic employer-employee relations in the country.
It appears collective bargaining in most organisations is no longer the best way of sorting out issues in an organisation because the result of the collective bargaining ends in employees boycotting work or employer deciding lock out.
Although we believe that dialogue is the best platform for solving the differences between parties in disagreements, the result from the dialogue defines whether the dialogue was important or not.