Labour relations, compared with other well-known HRM functions like recruitment, training, and performance management, is relatively undermined yet a very important issue in HRM studies. Labour relations primarily deals with the establishment and maintenance of a healthy and sustainable relationship between an employer and its employees, with considerations of the influence of the government, the organization’s stakeholders, and the business and social environment. It is therefore often referred to as a ‘labour relations system’ to denote the web of interdependencies among certain actors, certain contextual factors, as well as the ideologies and rules involved in the system.
Week 6 of the HRM course invites students to examine a labour relations conflict case between Toyota and its employees in its India factory. The conflict caused a series of work stoppages, and both the company and the employees seemed to result in a loss-loss situation. Students were guided by Dr. Kuok Kei Law to discuss and analyze the cause of the conflict and the conflict was gradually mobilized in that specific labour relations system. Throughout the discussion, students learnt about the system’s perspective of labour relations and got a chance to relate the issue of labour relations with a previous studied topic on Global HRM.
Towards the end of the class, students were asked to provide suggestions on how to develop a sustainable labour relations system. Organizational and social sustainability is a heated topic in the modern business environment. Customers as well as governments nowadays are having ever higher expectations on the social responsibility of business organizations. Not only financial sustainability (i.e. continuing profits) but other types of sustainability such as environmental sustainability and HRM sustainability (including a sustainable labour relations system) compose the strategic mission of most business organizations. Being able to critically analyze and tackle an issue with a global and sustainable perspective represents one of the key learning goals for NUCB undergraduate students.