Employer-Employee Relations in the Digital Age


Digital employment systems operate differently from the traditional models. Workers in the technological age experience limited commitment level from employers, such as access to stable wages or salaries, duration of engagement, and other allowances. Additionally, employee unions have changed roles based on  the development and adoption of disruptive technology, such as robotics and computers, which are replacing workers in various sectors. Therefore, unions have focused on enhancing such relationships to ensure cohesions and trust between employees and employers. Although employment models are changing while the role of union are becoming collaborative, human resource professionals should  ensure that employees’ rights are observed while their benefits are paid  as expected by regulators.

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The Role of Employee Unions in the Contemporary Age

Unions play a critical role in promoting the rights of employees in the workplace. Unions   negotiate with employers on behalf of the workers over issues such as salaries or wages, various forms of allowances, and work based benefits to motivate their members during service delivery. However, the role of unions is progressively changing to fit the workarrangements in the contemporary market. The relationship between MillerCoors Brewery in Trenton, Ohio, and its employee union illustrates a paradigm shift in the role of unions at the workplace. For instance, the company has operated  for 26 years without employee layoffs or arbitration session between the union and management. The role of unions in the contemporary job market has shifted to a collaborative approach, as illustrated by the Trenton model (Otis, 2019). In Trenton’s case, the union and management collaboration has achieved various employee benefits, including bonuses and vacations, when workers either meet or exceed their production targets. Such collaborative attempts define the shifts by the unions as partners in the business or firms rather than the traditional adversarial approach of being and external adjudicators.

The UAW Local 2308 has retained it salary and benefit structures above the regulators base in Ohio (Otis, 2019). Partnerships between the union and the organizational management on imperative decisions have assisted to realize such milestones for employees (Otis, 2019). The Trenton example demonstrates that partnership between an employee union and management can bring stability in the organization. For instance, the collaboration between Trenton and the employee union established a 5-year collective bargaining deal covering wages, working hours, compensations, and other benefits, including operational guidelines for employees (Otis, 2019). According to Otis (2019), negotiations and agreements based on the principles of trust deliver benefits to both employer and employee in a unionized setup. For instance, the case study demonstrate agreement that allowed robotic technology to replace retired workers and the company commitment to train operators,leading to a highly skilled and well remunerated workforce to deliver the desired task. Therefore, contemporary unions’ role has changed beyond negotiating for improved work environments to collaboration as they accommodatethe role of technology in the workplace.

Future Prospects on Employee Relations and Labour Unions

Future employee and labor relations are likely to take a divergent perspective. The contemporary employment models are developing and implementing different approaches from the traditional systems. Such progressive models can be explained with the Uber taxi platform that offers digital app-based employment. Wogan (2016) demonstrates the changing parameter in commitment levels by exemplifying the Uber model. For example, Uber handles its drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. Therefore, the company exonerates itself from responsibilities such as fixed salaries or wages, allowance and other employee entitlements in traditional work setups. Wogan (2016) further illustrates that the emergent app-based company fails to classify their workers as employees, denying them access to statutory and other significant employment benefits.

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The Uber case defines future labor engagements given the growth of the gig models in almost every sector on the global economy. According to Wogan (2016), Uber operates an innovative technological platform that disrupts traditional employment and labor relations approaches. Given that  Uber drivers use their self-owned vehicles, choose when to work by logging in or out of the platforms, and have no written contractual agreement with the Company,  classifying are direct, indirect employees, or independent contractors has been a subject of varied judicial and professional interpretations. Thus, employee unions and experts in the HR experts should lobby for progressive policies that are acceptable to both employees and employers in the app based employment systems such as the Uber model.

Managing Future Challenges in Employee Relations

The modern workplace experiences changes  that require the attention of future human resource (HR) experts. Managing future challenges in employee relations will require an integrated approach by HR professionals to ensure a focus on job security, motivation, and products or services quality. Benschop, Holgersson, Van den Brink, and Wahl (2015) aver that diversities of age, race, gender, class, and ethnicity will be a significant concern for organization in future. Additionally, the emergent of globalized workforce and the integration of expatriate workforce is also a critical factor due to cross cultural integration and the limitations such as adaptability perspectives that comes with it (Benschop et al., 2015, p. 553).

Benschop et al. (2015) developed the 3D model in their study that seeks to manage the key structures of gender equality and diversity at the workplace (p. 555). The approach seeks to ensure inclusion as a tool to address acceptance, belonging, and uniqueness in service delivery. Such models are important in managing future challenges related to employees profession and cultural diversities. According to Benschop et al. (2015), training on diversity management is an essential approach for managing employee challenges (p. 557). The authors further illustrate other important approaches, such as enhanced communications skills and managing social aspects  such as religions, disability, variations in work skills, and socio political viewpoints, as significant to managing challenges for employee relations.

Courts have also been instrumental in managing employee disputes. The Uber case illustrates the role of judicial intervention in handling employee disputes. The courts intermediation and settlement, as in the case of Alba (2016) for Uber drivers, provide an alternative in managing employee workplace challenges. Employee in innovative business models, such as Uber and other online two sided platforms, face different working conditions, and hence the need for training and capacity building to understand the changing dynamic in the workplace

The role of Ethics in Employee Relations

Ethics is a crucial practice in employee engagement in the workplace. Employees have the right to access healthy, friendly, and safe work environment when they discharge their roles. The case of amazon, where paramedics removed employees from the warehouse on wheelchairs and stretchers due to harsh temperatures beyond 100 degrees (Soper, 2011), is an ethical dilemma that affects employees. According to Soper (2011), Amazon is also involved in tax controversy with lawmakers in California based on challenges with online sales tax for products purchased by customers. Although the move by Amazon to have ambulance and paramedics on standby to treat workers in case of health challenges appears acceptable,  compeling workers to provide services in enclosed warehouses during high summer high temperatures is unethical.

Additionally Moore, Mayer, Chiang, Crossley, Karlesky, and Birtch (2019) demonstrate that leadership influences ethical and unethical practices in an organization. Accordingly, Moore et al. (2019) assert that individuals utilize moral disengagement based on cognitive systems, such as dehumanization, euphemistic stereotyping, and falsifying concerns, to violate ethical standards in the work place (p. 2). The authors further illustrate that leaders influence the extent to which organization engage in unethical practices. As such, leaders can influence ethical practices in the workplace and support employees in understanding moral principles for effective applications.

The Amazon Inc. case study supports the argument that managers define unethical practices as the workplace. Reb, Chaturvedi, Narayanan, and Kudesia (2018) posit that being mindful as an ethical practice encourages better communications among employees and can be associated with reduced workplace reactivity, diminished conflicts, and enhances positive interactions. This approach improves production, and work relations and engagement are enahnced , leading to growth and competitive advantage. From the perspective, leaders who are ethically mindful of others attend to employee talents and focus on developing their skills in the workplace. Therefore, ethics is important in managing employee performance levels, skills building, and interpersonal connection at work for enhanced productivity.


Employee realtions systems are changing based on innovative models in business. Employees in the contemporary employment experience various frustrations due to the inability to understand the changing expectations of employers on the digital stage. Therefore, HR experts are responsible for ensuring challenges that occur in the modern workplace are managed through effective training sessions. Additionally, unions in the new global age have a role to play in managing the changing diversity in the workplace and fostering cohesion and acceptability. In the current world, unions enhance the collaboration between employers and employees, and foster their interests and those of  organization to develop trust in their enagagements.



Alba, D. (2016). Some drivers really aren’t happy about the $100 M Uber settlement Wired. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/2016/05/drivers-really-arent-happy-100m-uber-settlement/

Benschop, Y., Holgersson, C., Van den Brink, M., & Wahl, A. (2015). Future challenges for practices of diversity management in organizations. Handbook for Diversity in Organizations, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 553-574. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Marieke_Van_den_Brink/publication/299044294_Future_Challenges_for_Practices_of_Diversity_Management_in_Organizations/links/56ee76b608aea35d5b99d5d4.pdf

Moore, C., Mayer, D. M., Chiang, F. F., Crossley, C., Karlesky, M. J., & Birtch, T. A. (2019). Leaders matter morally: The role of ethical leadership in shaping employee moral cognition and misconduct. Journal of Applied Psychology, 104(1), 123.

Otis. G. (2019). Ohio MillerCoors brewery owes 26 years of roaring success to a unique union-management relationship New York Daily News. Retrieved from https://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/millercoors-brewery-owes-success-union-management-relationship-article-1.3354875

Reb, J., Chaturvedi, S., Narayanan, J., & Kudesia, R. S. (2018). Leader mindfulness and employee performance: A sequential mediation model of LMX quality, interpersonal justice, and employee stress. Journal of Business Ethics, 1-19. doi: 10.1007/s10551-018-3927-x

Smith, S. (2017). Two worker deaths in september at different Amazon warehouses spawn concern from worker advocates. EHS Today. Retrieved from http://libproxy.usc.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.libproxy2.usc.edu/docview/1947374350?accountid=14749

Soper, S. (2011). Workers complain of harsh conditions in Amazon warehouse. Oakland Tribune. Retrieved from http://libproxy.usc.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.libproxy2.usc.edu/docview/893697102?accountid=14749

Wiernik, B. M., & Ones, D. S. (2018). Ethical employee behaviors in the consensus taxonomy of counterproductive work behaviors. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 26(1), 36-48.

Wogan, J. B. (2016). Who’s an employee? The Uber-important question of today’s economyTechwire. Retrieved from https://www.techwire.net/news/whos-an-employee-the-uber-important-question-of-todays-economy.html

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