Industrial relations in the building industry in Kenya: a case study of construction firms Undertaking public projects
This study is an attempt to impress on building contractors and all those involved in the implementation of building projects the relevance and importance of good industrial relations on building sites. This is achieved by establishing and effecting reasonable terms and conditions of employment which serve to motivate workers. To achieve this aim, the study has examined the characteristics of work on building sites that emphasize the need for good industrial relations, the role of the state and the trade unions representing employers and employees respectively, and the role of contractors as the employers in fostering good industrial relations. Industrial relations means the employer-employee relationship in the work place. Important aspects in industrial relations include the establishment of reasonable terms and conditions of employment. This involves individual and joint consultations between employers and employees on building sites and collective relations between employers and employees. The state has the interest of not only protecting the weak in the industry but also of ensuring that terms and conditions of employment are fair. Thus the state enacts laws and establishes the necessary enforcement machinery aimed at maintaining industrial harmony. It is shown that attainment of good industrial relations is a reflection of effective management, which strikes a compromise between its objectives and those of its workers. This means that managers should not only be knowledgeable in management of organisations but should also focus on personnel management in order to achieve good industrial relations. Managers should aim for effective communication, boosting of morale, understanding work groups, causes and control of industrial conflicts, and ensuring employee participation in decision making. The thrust of personnel management should be the motivation of the workers. The personnel function is all ab6ut motivation. Motivation of workers on building sites involve many factors. Among these are the level of wages, job security, working conditions, interpersonal relations, quality of supervision, work itself, achievement, recognition, responsibility, growth and advancement for all workers. The employers are urged to recognise and improve on these factors, thus enhancing terms and conditions of employment. In this way, the very source of industrial conflicts would be removed. Research findings show that industrial relations on building sites in Kenya are poor. The employers not only failed to adhere to existing rules governing terms and conditions of employment but were generally unconcerned with the welfare of their employees and paid inadequate attention to them. The enforcement machinery setup by the state was inadequate. A major conclusion of the study is that good industrial relations should be seen in the light of sound management on building sites. Good management enhances good industrial relations. The recommendations offered aim at creating a situation which is conducive to attainment of good industrial relations and enhanced productivity on building sites.