Contemporary developments in employment relations assessment activity

Understanding Workplace Disputes and Resolutions in Southern Rail: A Case Study Analysis

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Introduction of Contemporary developments in employment relations (DER) 

Employment dispute case study

"Southern Railway Ltd" is a well known organisational in UK that is concerned with providing rail service to passengers. This study is going to analyse industrial action, conflicts and types of conflicts arising in southern rail in UK. This study emphasises explaining the nature and attributes of employee confects in the industrial activity of southern rail to provide significant and useful advice concerning assessments of the management process. Explanation of third parties' involvements namely commotion and EU in conciliation, mediation and arbitration services help to identify significant resolutions for issues regarding employee conflicts and industrial relationships effectively.

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 Indeterminate nature of employment relations 

There are three primary characteristics of the employment relationship and these are the indeterminacy of the labour contract, asymmetry or inequality of power sources of the co-workers and the dynamic nature of the relationship because of the co-existence of cooperation and conflict (Frege and Kelly, 2020). In an indeterminate employment contract, the employer can purchase the work capacity of employees as there is a gap regarding the work process details in the contract of employment. So the employer can demand efficient competency of work irrespective of its amount and nature. The indeterminacy or incompleteness of the relationship between employees is open to negotiation and hence results in a vibrant interplay of cooperation and conflict between the acting parties that is purely conditional on their resources of power and pReferences. This might evolve into collaborative bargaining in occurrences where the “labour movement” has an adequate source of power that drives the actual contract of individual employees to a collective level (Lansbury and Bamber, 2020). It cans adobe the driver of adopting nonmarket strategies for the employers (e.g. HR strategies for high performance) for extracting the effort of work from the workers as they are not capable of entirely controlling them.

Range of factors that impact employment relations 

There is a radical shift in the labour market nature in the last four decades along with increasing employment domination, income inequality and job security concerns. This transformation is driven by globalisation, de-industrialisation, competition and dominance of economic policies that are neo-liberal based on marketisation and privatisation.  Currently, significant uncertainty in the labour market is raised for Brexit and the emergence of new technology for working and living (Bennett et al.2020). The pace and scale of these transformations present complex and considerable challenges to the labour market. Employment relations in the UK are characterized traditionally by ‘voluntarism’ in which the function of the state is to deliver a basic legislation framework that supports “free collective bargaining” between trade unions and employers and “plugged gaps” in collaborative regulation. Previously the government claimed that dismissing the influence of trade unions, regulation of unnecessary employment would permit labour markets to function freely, salaries will drop to a level favourable for employers, and they will be able to prepare to employ more workers. But in Trade Union Act 2016, the UK government clearly mentioned that the government will not favour the trade unions and instead will adopt a pro-business and unambiguous message. Labour snubbed calls from trade unions to withdraw legislation for unions and expanded programmes of marketisation and privatisation (Bennett et al.2020). This creates a situation of conflict in employment relations.

The situation of Brexit has the potential to radically reshape employment relations. The government sees the regulation of employment as an obstacle to business growth and economic efficiency. Some broadcasters argued that the rights of employment underpin the efficiency of the economy by stimulating employers to innovate and invest rather than counting on low-wage policy for maintaining competitiveness. Therefore, there is a threat post-Brexit that any deterioration of rights of employment can simply push the UK dangling on a low-skill economy, low productivity and low-wage labour market. This is a crucial threat to employment relations.  An important feature of contemporary employment relations has been the growing importance of the international context. The greater reach of global markets, the increased mobility of labour and capital, and the extension of European employment regulation means that anyone working in employment relations needs to have a broader perspective and a clear understanding of how this shapes practices in UK workplaces (Bennett et al.2020). An essential characteristic of the contemporary relation of employment is the growing significance of the global context. The more significant reach of international markets, the expanded mobility of capital and labour, and the extension of employment regulation in Europe require a broader perspective and a transparent understanding of the context of reshaping workplace practice in the UK.


An explanation of what makes industrial action ‘official’

According to the government of the UK, industrial action rises due to unresolved issues for workplace disputes. In order to make any industrial action official, that industrial action must take place in the presence of any trade union and be organised by them. The trade union organises industrial action in the forms of strikes, action short of strikes, lock-outs etc. are solely responsible for that particular industrial action (, 2022). If any industrial action has not met the above criteria then it will be declared as an “unofficial” industrial action. People or workers taking part in any unofficial industrial action strictly have no claiming right against their unfair dismissal while taking part in that action. 

The given case study about the industrial action by Southern Rail is an official industrial action as this action is organised by ASLEF and RMT members. ASLEF and RMT, both are trade unions of train drivers and transport workers respectively. As responsible organisers of industrial action, both of the trade unions made an official announcement about the industrial action with its dates and plans (Southernrailway. com, 2022). Along with that, they provided travel advice before, during and aftermath of industrial action for people and daily passengers of southern rail. The organisers also managed to provide refunds for the passengers who have bookings on those days and proper compensation and travel assistance for the passengers of southern rail. This whole scenario describes the official nature of the industrial action in southern rail by RMT and ASLEF. 

'Conflict’ and ‘Misbehaviour’ in the context of workplace disputes 

Conflict in the workplace can be created by personal clashes, unrealistic expectations and needs, business values, unresolved issues in the workplace, high levels of workload etc (, 2022.). Misbehaviour is the negative behaviour on conduct of employees that is intentional. In the case study scenario, the situation of conflict arises between the trade unions of Southern Rail and the government of the UK regarding the unresolved issue at the workplace because there is no raise in wages for the employees and workers of Southern rail since April 2019. 

Southern Rail is facing issues regarding staffing and management processes that contribute to affecting service quality for passengers. Concerning these factors passengers of Southern Rail have signified a failure of governments in developing employment structures and monitoring processes as well as agreements based on enforcing franchises. Issues regarding poor management structure, rolling stoker, mismanagement and inadequate staffing are responsible for affecting overall effectiveness and creating employee conflict in Southern Rail. In this aspect, it has been analysed that prolonged industrial action is responsible for creating complexity in the employee management process of Southern Rail concerning major issues in adequate service for passengers. 30% of businesses are down, 95% of drivers are on strike and 50% of guards strike due to switching another job and another company over Southern Rail signifies a major employee conflict (, 2017). On the other hand, Southern Rail is associated with different unofficial activities concerning train cancellation, and 350 trains set are cut down from the timetable that leads to higher job loss for employees (, 2020).  Moreover, the employment team emphasises applying PwC Legal concerning their employment rights. Increasing absenteeism of employees due to health-related issues leads to disrupted employee involvement in Southern Rail.

Annual average of train cancellation in UK

Figure 1: Annual average of train cancellation in UK

(Source:, 2017)

 Due to increasing health issues and absenteeism of employees, employers of Southern Rail are involved in different unofficial activities without applying for sick leave considering the installation of employment rights of UK governments.  Employment rights Act in the UK has amended that workers have no right to strike and take action against employers but providing health benefits and immunity from sanction is applicable for employees (, 2017). Apart from that, it can be stated that industrial action and employee conflicts in Southern Rail are going through unlawful and unofficial activities that are associated with employment-related conflicts. 

Advice, guidance and further support

Analysis of issues in Southern Rail helps to identify poor management structure, rolling stoker, mismanagement and inadequate staffing that leads to creating employee conflict and affecting industrial relationships with other commotion. Concerning evidence based on employee conflict, it can be advised that southern railway has to improve the management process with the adequate application of employee rights acts. Southern Rail is facing issues regarding industrial relations and employee engagements due to the unofficial industrial action. In this aspect, the HR management of southern rail way gave to take different employee-oriented decisions for minimising employee dissatisfaction and increasing employee involvement (Crossick, 2021). According to the employee rights acts, employees have no right to a strike as well as employers have to provide an adequate amount of salary and other employee benefits. Increasing absenteeism of employees is associated with poor health policies that have to improve by providing proper health benefits to employees.  Therefore, it can be s stated that Souther railway has to adopt an improved HR management practice with perfect organisational policies to reach employee satisfaction and resolve employee-oriented conflicts. 

According to the employment acts of UK, proving a fixed pay scale with health and leave-related employee benefits is important otherwise its leads to causing legal threats for this organisation. In another ward, establishing a partnership relation with the commission of EU can be recognised as a notable and strategic way to reduce unofficial activities and explore effective management practices with an efficient workforce that will contribute to maintaining industrial action.  As argued by Makhamreh et al. (2022), employee conflict companies from poor management processes and job dissatisfaction of employees that can be minimised by improving management processes and encouraging job satisfaction of employees. "Collective agreement' is associated with employee contracts in southern rail that have to modify to increase employee satisfaction and minimise the switching tendency of employees.  Concerning those factors, it can be stated that improvement of the staffing system, partnership with the commission and modifying the "Collective agreement’ concerning employee contracts are required. Improvements in the satisfaction system are associated with developing employee contracts and retaining employees for maintaining the workforce. 

Conciliation, mediation and arbitration are recognised as contemporary processes for resolving collective conflicts regarding employee management and industrial relationships. As cited by Ibsen (2021), third-party involvement in arbitration can be distinguished as a different factor based on facts and consequent creating in decided dispute but the aims of conciliation and mediation are to support third parties to settlement station with agreements and minimising possibilities of further increasing dispute in industrial action. Industrial relationships and management processes can be managed by a third party in European Union namely Commission through setting up experts group by analysing their expe4rinbevced and qualifications based on information from national reports. They are concerned with improving industrial relationships concerning the experience of mediation, conciliation, and arbitration arrangements concerning the interaction of the European system that will contribute to fixing issues of employee management and employee conflict in Southern Railways. As opined by Poto?nik et al. (2019), intervention of third-party involvement and involvement of EU members will contribute to eliminating industrial disputes in Southern Railways and encourage a transnational system with the application of conciliation, mediation, and arbitration services in the operational practice of the industry. "Commission’s Social Policy Agenda 2000-2005" focuses on committing and consulting different industries as a partner that helps to reach social needs concerning passengers and employees in southern rail. Development partnerships and consulting for reaching requirements help to establish a management process at the European level through strengthening voluntary mechanisms on arbitration, mediation, and conciliation for resolving conflict. 


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