industrial relations system

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A conceptual model developed by John Dunlop in the 1950s to guide the analysis of industrial relations in national economies. Dunlop contended that the IR system was a subsystem of the wider society that existed to resolve economic conflict. It comprised four elements: actors, contexts, a body of employment rules that are the outcome of the interaction between the actors, and a binding ideology. The actors were identified as employers and their organizations, employees and any representative body of workers, such as trade unions, and the government and public agencies. The main contexts that shaped the conduct of industrial relations were technology, market and budgetary constraints, and the distribution of power within the wider society. Within these constraints, the actors develop substantive and procedural rules by unilateral action, by joint regulation, or by tripartite action involving the state. Finally, the whole system is bound together by shared understandings and beliefs, including acceptance of the main elements of the IR system itself. The model has been widely used in the industrial relations literature, and the structure of many industrial and employee relations courses at universities is derived from its elements. It has also been criticized, however, for exaggerating the stability and self-contained nature of the sphere of industrial relations, and for the limited scope it affords for the analysis of social and industrial conflict.

Subjects: Human Resource Management.

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