Case study: Perspectives on Conflict in a Small-Medium Enterprise
Clancy motors has a small dealer franchise in a medium sized town in Co. Kerry. The company is owned and managed by Tom Clancy, who served his time as a mechanic many years ago. Tom has recently heard that a few disgruntled employees are unhappy with their pay and overtime payments . He is very surprised at this because he feels he has always treated employees very well – like family , really. He operates an open-door policy and sees no need for rules and procedures, since each person has to be handled differently. Over the years he has had a number of approaches from local union officials saying that employees want to be represented by a union. The official refused to supply names and Tom shrugged off the approaches, telling her that he refused to entertain ‘any involvement’. He finds out that there are only a few employees behind the current unrest. While investigating he discovers three of the group of the disgruntled employees are putting petrol in their own cars and not signing for it. Normally he allows employees to do this in lieu of overtime and he believes this is a win- win situation, since they are not taxed on it. But he discovers these three employees are filling their car on a weekly basis. Tom calls in each of the three employees separately and dismisses them without notice.
Mick Murphy has worked for Clancy motors for six years. He thinks things are badly regulated, with pay below the norm compared to other main dealerships. Employees can be called in without notice at weekends to deal with breakdowns and towing people. There is no overtime or call-out pay for this, although employees do get a few gallons of petrol in lieu. Mick feels he should be paid the going rate for his work. There are rumours that some mechanics are being paid more than others, but no one knows for sure.
While Tom Clancy says he operates an open-door policy, everyone knows you have to be careful what you say to him. Employees often say ‘its Toms way or the highway’ but no one would dare say this to him. Mick hears that three fellow mechanics were sacked because Clancy said they were ‘going to town on the petrol’. He thinks this is very unfair because he knows these three employees were paid less than him, even though they are more qualified than him.
Mick and a number of employees get together and join the Union. They tell the union official that they are going on strike. She insists they do not go on strike. She explains that she will seek a meeting first thing Monday morning with Tom Clancy in order to try to resolve issues and have the employees reinstated. Over the weekend, a number of employees get together and decide that there is ‘no use in waiting’ and that ‘you need to strike while the iron is hot’. They decide that they will picket the dealership. As a result, when Tom arrives to open the premise, he is confronted by seven disgruntled employees picketing the premise and they stay there all day.
Edited case study from source: Wallace, Gunnigle and O’Sullivan (2020)
Q1. With the aid of research identify three of the serious Industrial Relations issues in the case. Give reasons for your answer.
Q2. If Tom Clancy asks you for advice on how he should handle the situation, what suggestions could you make? Give developed reasons for your recommendations.
Q3. Evaluate the steps the Trade Union should take given the seriousness of the situation, use Trade Union legislation to support your answer. For more information on Contemporary Employee Relations see this: https://www.britannica.com/topic/industrial-relations
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