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This article defines positive labor relations, labor management partnership, and explains how they benefit the workplace.

What are Positive Labor Relations?

Positive labor relations are the relationships between a company’s employees, their respective union, and management working together towards common goals. It includes terms and conditions of employment, and following collective bargaining, is reduced to a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

Positive labor relations flow smoothly when managers and employees fulfill each other’s expectations, working with respective unions. Conversely, the entire organization may suffer when one side (or both sides) fails in its obligations to the other.

There is also a more specific use of the term labor relations, which refers to the formal relationship between management and labor unions. Positive labor relations promote effective bargaining between employer and employee representatives. Engaging in collective negotiations and other forms of labor-management partnership helps management and unions address critical workplace issues like job safety, training, technology, and terms and conditions of employment.

What is a Labor Management Partnership?

A labor management partnership (LMP) is a cooperative agreement between an employer and the labor unions representing the employer’s employees. This type of partnership offers benefits to all parties. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, “Labor-management partnerships can transform adversarial workplace relationships into collaborative relationships where both parties are committed to improving business operations and building employee loyalty.”

Kaiser Permanente Medical Group (KPMG) formed a labor management partnership in 1997 amid growing discord between management and the leaders of over 50 unions representing Kaiser’s workforce. KPMG’s LMP has been successful in involving the workforce in organizational decision-making, and serves as a best-in-class model for labor and management wanting to start their own partnership.

There are many other labor-management partnerships in addition to the healthcare industry. Construction, transportation, mining, food service, manufacturing, and many other industries have also formed partnerships. Besides easing relations between management and labor, labor-management partnerships can promote improved working conditions, increase training, and enhance job satisfaction.

Benefits of Labor-Management Partnerships and Relations

  • When management commits to improving the workplace by maintaining positive labor relations, employees tend to feel more engaged and more loyal to the organization. The employer benefits when satisfied employees spread the word about how great it is to work for the company. A healthy workplace makes people less likely to leave the company, especially when they receive benefits like bonuses, terms and conditions of employment they care about, and the opportunity to improve their skills.
  • When employees have good working relationships with each other, they will cooperate and collaborate more.
  • When all employees feel they are being treated fairly by management, there tend to be fewer disagreements between employees & management, and less conflict, resulting in a healthier workplace.
    Employees who enjoy good relations with management also tend to be more productive.
  • They are also more likely to provide outstanding customer service. Employees who feel valued in their jobs will pay more attention to customer needs.
    Improvements in productivity and customer service can mean higher revenue and profits.
  • Unions tend to be more engaged as they too have a voice, working to negotiate topics and outcomes that mutually benefit the Union, and their members.

Best Labor Relations Practices

In organizations with positive labor relations, employees are invested in their work and understand how it contributes to organizational goals. This requires management transparency and a willingness to educate employees. Management and employees share a vision of the organization’s future and work together to get there. Excellent communication builds trust on both sides, and helps create the “us” model as opposed to “management versus employees.”

Besides promoting transparency and shared goals, employers can vastly improve labor relations by providing employees with the tools they need to do their jobs. This includes investing in technology and supporting internal and external training programs.

Taking positive steps to improve labor-management relations helps employees, employers, and Unions by creating an environment of continuous improvement.
When a business can rely on good labor relations, it is better prepared to weather any storm.

It also can build a reputation that will make employees want to stay and attract the best new talent.


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