Conflicts are common in organizations and mostly emanates as a result of baffling disagreements (Spaho, 2013). The implications of business, as well as organizational conflicts that bring their cessation and loss, is an area that requires distinct attention to ensure that their profitability is preserved and increased. When conflicts are well-managed, they become a force that ushers positive change in an organization. This paper will discuss the Walmart Labor dispute in the context of when and why it started. It will also discuss conflict management systems and how they relate to Walmart's labor dispute.
Background Information on Walmart Labor Dispute
Walmart's labor dispute began in 2006 with the question of the average wage of its workers. Later it advanced from low wages to other issues like poor working conditions and inadequate health care (Li & Liu, 2018). In 2006, Walmart reported that the average wage of its workers was 10.11 dollars per hour (Li & Liu, 2018). However, the Human Rights Watch estimates indicated that the amount was below the average of $10.24 earnings of workers at discount department stores (Li & Liu, 2018). Trying to solve the dispute, Walmart announced in the same year that it would spool an average pay increase of six percent for the workers in 1,200 United States Walmart and Sam's Club locations (Reich & Bearman, 2018).
The company also instituted pay caps on its veteran workers. Although Walmart maintained that the measures were needed to remain competitive, it was believed that the salary caps were mainly an attempt to cut off its higher-paid veteran workers (Reich & Bearman, 2018).In an attempt to resolve the labor conflict, Walmart, in 2008 agreed to pay 352 million dollars in settling the lawsuits appealing that it involuntary made employees work more hours than required, which was seen as the largest payment ever for lawsuits regarding wage desecrations (Reich & Bearman, 2018). In 2016, workers in China did an unofficial strike within Walmart stores in various provinces complaining about a new working-hours scheduling system that had been started by the company (Li & Liu, 2018). The workers were protesting against the system, which was allowing the managers to plan for an unrestrained number of hours per day that amounted to 174 hours in every month shorn of overtime payments (Li & Liu, 2018). Walmart, however, maintained that workers were supposed to either select the new schedule or continue with the original shifts.
The company elaborated that the new schedule that Walmart claimed many workers were supporting permitted employees to be working for more shifts as much as they wanted. Walmart employees accused the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU), workers union, of being droopy on the cause as well as disinclined to the opinions that were given by the workers (Li & Liu, 2018). The ACFTU had signed an agreement in 2006 with the company, allowing Walmart to alternatively install the management-controlled unions (Li & Liu, 2018). ACFTU directed the workers to go back to their jobs. Reports indicated that the employees decided to go back to work after the management decided to contemplate their dissents.
Later in 2018, Walmart announced that it would raise the minimum wage per hour to 11 dollars (Li & Liu, 2018). Apropos to labor unions, Walmart has got disputes too as it is accused that it has poor policies that make the workers not to join the unions. Walmart's statement concerning this issue is that it is not anti-union as accused but pro-associate. The company argues that its workers cannot pay third parties to converse complications with management since it has an open-door policy that allows workers to give grievances and acquiesce propositions to the corporate ladder.
Conflict Management Systems
Conflict management is a practice that involves identifying and addressing disputes using a cogent, balanced, and operative way (Avgar et al., 2013). It is mainly executed in a business environment and encompasses appropriate communication, problem-resolving capabilities, together with effective negotiating skills to reinstate the motivation of the company towards its overall goals. Conflict management system refers to how conflicts are managed in a certain environment and have different premises like the boundaries that separate one system with another, purpose, inputs, and outputs (Roche & Teague, 2014). A Conflict management system is usually tactically tailored and customized in supporting the requirements of an organization based on its operational premise.
The Walmart labor dispute has, in several ways, related to the conflict management system. Firstly, one component of the conflict management system is training. It is a component that involves raising worker conflict awareness that lessens the negative effect of conflict in the organization. When workers went on strike in China, OUR Walmart trained and gave strategic guidance to the Walmart Chinese Workers Association (WCWA) before the occurrence of strikes. Another component of the conflict management system that relates to Walmart is seeking neutral third-party interventions. When the Walmart employees disputed more working hours, they sought the intervention of ACFTU, which is a third party. Another component of the conflict management system is engaging in supportive infrastructure. It is exhibited by Walmart internally deciding to raise the average wage pay as it attempts to minimize the damage that the conflict could cause in the organization.
The major cause of organizational conflicts is the disagreements between two or more parties. If not well managed, conflicts can make an organization incur losses. Walmart's labor dispute mainly emanated from average wage pay for the employees. The conflict management system refers to how conflicts are managed in a particular environment and have different premises.
Avgar, A. C., Lamare, J. R., Lipsky, D. B., & Gupta, A. (2013). Unions and ADR: The relationship between labor unions and workplace dispute resolution in US corporations. Ohio St. J. on Disp. Resol., 28, 63. Retrieved from https://kb.osu.edu/bitstream/handle/1811/77198/OSJDR_V28N1_063.pdf?sequence=1
Li, C., & Liu, M. (2018). Overcoming collective action problems facing Chinese workers: Lessons from four protests against Walmart. ILR Review, 71(5), 1078-1105. Retrieved from http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/89066/1/Li_Collective%20Action%20Problems_Accepted.pdf
Reich, A., & Bearman, P. (2018). Working for Respect: Community and Conflict at Walmart. Columbia University Press.
Roche, W. K., & Teague, P. (2014). Conflict management systems. In The Oxford handbook of conflict management in organizations (pp. 250-272). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Spaho, K. (2013). Organizational communication and conflict management. Management-Journal of Contemporary Management Issues, 18(1), 103-118. Retrieved from https://hrcak.srce.hr/file/153271
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