Shared Vision In Industrial Relations – Two cases

Totus HR School organised a Webinar on Industrial Relations. It focused not on the negatives, but on bringing out more constructive aspects which are practised.
I was one of the anchors in the Webinar. It made me look for some material on ‘Shared vision’ in Industrial Relations. Here are two cases of Shared Vision that caught my eyes.
The ‘Shared Vision’ in Industrial Relations is so rare that these two examples stand out.

A.     Southwest Airlines:
Here is what the Southwest Airlines says it does:
1. Southwest accepts the unions as legitimate representatives of employees and as valued partners in the organization.
Doing this removes the traditional anti-union bias which is the first major hurdle to good relations. By accepting whichever unions the employees choose to align themselves with, the Southwest management team demonstrate they trust the employee’s judgement.
2. Southwest expects the unions to have an intense loyalty to the company and a feeling of ownership.
Therefore, when negotiating with the unions, there is an anticipation they will act reasonably. Due to the fact Southwest employees have chosen to belong to six different unions, there is anticipation the other unions will help ensure none of their number make excessive demands.
3. Southwest treats the unions as full partners, not like some albatross hanging around their organization’s neck.
From that perspective, Southwest supplies each union with accurate information so negotiations can move forward in the bright light of day rather than in an environment of mistrust and confusion.

But Shared Vision must also tell us how they will resolve conflicts. This is what Southwest says on the subject:

To resolve conflicts, Southwest Airlines has a well-defined process:

1. The parties themselves are encouraged to use every means available to resolve the conflict themselves first. If that’s not possible, managers are expected to take an active role in developing a solution which will be suitable.
2. An information gathering meeting is held, at which both sides of the conflict put forward their perspectives on the issues involved. Many times, conflicts sort themselves out at this stage mainly because better communication is achieved.
3. If the conflict is still unresolved, the managers hold what is called unofficially a “Come to Jesus” meeting. This is a face-to-face meeting which takes an entire day. By the end of this meeting, most problems have been able to be resolved because of the dialogue that takes place between the parties and the managers.
The overall process sounds simple, but when well implemented, conflict resolution becomes more of a team building exercise and less of a source of destructive energy. Note that Southwest takes a proactive approach to resolving disputes, and never leaves these conflicts and differences as background issues which should be ignored. Instead, the company works on the premise conflicts will naturally arise from time to time – particularly given the pressures of the flight schedule an airline works to. By using these conflicts productively as opportunities for learning, Southwest strengthens relationships between groups of employees, shares knowledge and fosters mutual respect between different teams within the company.

And their COO says:
“We have worked for years to get to this point. We have a very heated, potentially dangerous operation on the ramp. There is a lot of stress when the plane is on the ground. Inevitably some conflict will arise. If something happens out of the ordinary, if you feel someone didn’t handle something correctly, you fill out a report. We got so many reports after a while we added a line. ‘If it involved a Southwest employee, have you discussed it with him or her?’ If we got a form where the answer was no, we would call and say, why don’t you all have a chat? The local managers will help get the people together. When the senior managers get the final report, we decide if a ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting is needed.
We tell them this is not a disciplinary meeting. We are just moderators, the focus is on the employees.”
– Colleen Barret, COO, Southwest Airlines [Courtesy]
B.     Singapore Shell Employees Union
SSEU was very proactive, it documented its future direction in 1988:

A Shared Industrial Relations Vision for employees of Shell Companies in Singapore arose from a desire to improve the industrial climate in the organization. Both the union and the management have been trying to remain relevant and effective in their own ways.
In 1988, the Singapore Shell Employees Union documented its future direction in the plan of action, “Facing the Future – Plan of Action for the 1990s”.
In 1991, the Company launched their mission and vision statements to the employees. This was in response to a perceived need among the employees to know what the company’s basic beliefs are and the direction the company is heading.

Traditionally, the benefits sought by the SSEU and the management’s desires to expand productive efficiency, thus reducing the unit operating cost and increasing profitability, the SIRV came in place.
The Shared Industrial Relations Vision (SIRV) aims to let both the company and the union achieve their traditional desires by combining their individual visions. This will make the company more successful, the union more effective and the employees better off, economically and socially with a better quality of working life.
The basic difference between this shared vision and other forms of labour management co-operation is that, both parties share the understanding that gains for one part does not mean a loss for the other. Both the company and the union can work together to strengthen each other and prosper for the benefit of the employees.

The Shell Management and SSEU reaffirmed the Shared Industrial Relations Vision (SIRV) and together embarked on a new era in industrial relations. Both the Company and Union re-affirmed their full commitment to the SIRV at SSEU Delegates’ Conference held on 24 September 1999. The following was announced as a joint visible demonstration of this Shared Vision.

  • Shell Companies in Singapore and Singapore Shell Employees’ Union are committed to the well-being of employees.
  • We believe that this requires a successful Company and an effective Union working together in a strategic alliance to meet challenges, seize opportunities, solve problems and enhance the quality of work life in an ever changing environment. To this end,
  • We will conduct industrial relations in a professional, pragmatic, consistent, consultative and enlightened manner with mutual respect, trust and openness at all levels.
  • We will ensure that employees are well remunerated, and rewarded in accordance with performance.
  • We will ensure that employees are treated fairly, with trust, respect and care.
  • We will promote an environment in which employees are well-informed, motivated and empowered to perform their best.
  • We will ensure that employees are highly trained and developed to the best of their abilities.
  • We will promote a safe and healthy working environment through the highest safety standards and greater awareness on issues related to health, safety and environment.
  • We will ensure the long term viability and growth of the Company through productivity improvement, innovation and quality improvement in products and services.
  • We will ensure that Union remains effective by supporting its activities and informing, consulting and involving it in matters affecting employees.
  • The fulfilment of this vision requires the commitment, involvement and participation of all employees.
[Reaffirmed on the 24th day of September 1999 Industrial Relations Operating Model between SSEU and the Shell Companies in Singapore.] [Courtesy]

While there are a lot of Indian Companies doing constructive work in Industrial Relations, those who know of open communications like these may please post it here.