The Air Pilots dispute overwhelmed Australia for many months, shutting down the airways, turning the aviation industry upside down and bringing tourism to the brink of collapse. It all started with a relatively small union of less than 2000 members (Browne 1997, p.219). They pursued salary increases that became an epic battle involving the Labor government, union, tourism industry, airlines and the employees. The process of analysing this case included examining the major stakeholders and their perspectives from a unitarist, pluralist, and radical point of view. The 5 major stakeholders include, The Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP), the ALP, the airlines (employers), the pilots (employees) and the tourism industry.
Balnave (2001, p.7 cited Deery 2001) says that unitarits believe that “every workplace is an integrated and harmonious entity that exists for a common purpose”. Unitarists are in favour of leadership by management to achieve commitment to the job and the organisation (Balnave 2001, p.7 cited Deery et al). Unitarists view the employees in the organisation with a mutual idea and objective. The employers and employees are seen as one team working together to achieve their goals. Unitarist believe conflict in the workplace is generated by troublemakers, poor management, and consequence of bad communication (Balnave 2001, p.7 cited Deery et al).
Pluralists approach are not seen as one team, rather they compete against one another to achieve their own objectives. It takes into consideration that everyone has different needs and interests, and power is evenly subtle so that no group can dominate the others. “In contrast to the unitarist approach, which admits only one source of legitimate power, pluralism points to the likelihood of diverse interest groups and multiple forms of loyalty and attachment” (Balnave 2001, p.11 cited Blyton and Turnbull 1998). Clegg (1975, p.310) states that “a plural society is stable but not static”. The pluralist point of view believes that conflict is predictable. The pluralists concentrate “on conflict resolution and procedural form” (Balnave 2001, p.14 cited Martin 1981).
In the radical view everyone is not treated or viewed as equals, unlike that of the unitarist perspective. “Those who own the means of production have power superiority over those who sell their labour for wages” (Balnave 2001, p.14 cited Deery et al 2001). This shows that there is a dominating group in the organisation, whereas the pluralists see the power evenly distributed so that no group can dominate the others. Radical perspective focuses more on the view of power in the organisation.
The first major stakeholder is the Australian Federation of Air Pilots (AFAP), led by Brian McCarthy. The AFAP confronted the airlines for a 30% increase in salaries for the pilots. The airlines would not negotiate of such salary increase being that “the normal maximum pay increase permissible under the federal tribunal’s wage principle was 6%” (Smith 1990, p.241). The wage fixation principle was challenged by the AFAP (McDonald 1990, Vol.1, No.1). In the unitarist perspective the AFAP is seen to compete for the faithfulness and dedication of the employees. The pluralist view unions as an acceptable organisation who represent and protect the interests of the employees at work. The radicals see the union as an intruder on management.
The second major stakeholder is the ALP who was enforcing common law sanctions be used against the pilots (Smith 1990, p.241). The unitarists and the pluralists have a similar point of view. Unitarists would have disagreed with the ALP because their perspective is that the government should have protected the employees and have their best interest in mind (Balnave 2001, p.8 cited Deery 2001). The pluralist perspective views the government should have defended the pilots get back their jobs (Balnave 2001, p.13 cited Deery 2001). The radical views the government to protect the interest of the employers, and in turn protecting the aviation industry (Balnave 2001, p.14 cited Deery 2001).
The third major stakeholder is the pilots (employees). The pilots took industrial action for a 30% pay increase but lost their job in the process. Fox (1996) states that “a unitary system has one source of authority and one focus of loyalty, which is why it suggests the team analogy”. From this it can be seen that the unitarists do not agree with the pilots course of action. Instead they believe that each pilot should accept “his place and his function gladly, following the leadership of the one so appointed” (Fox 1996). With the pluralist point of view is that they agree with the pilots. The radical viewed the pilots to be wrong and were considered as troublemakers and deserved the outcome of the dispute.
The fourth major stake holder is the airlines (employers). The airlines “were not prepared to consider any deals outside the wage fixing guidelines” (McDonald 1990, Vol.1, No.1). The airlines successfully defeated the pilots’ dispute of the 30% pay increase. The Airlines used the opportunity to employ new staff and reduce wage costs. The unitarists view that the airlines should have adopted better communication skills. Pluralists saw that the new staff do not have the qualifications, or the experience. Radicals believe that there will always be conflict, and the airline made the right decision.
The last major stakeholder is the tourist industry. More than $560 million in spending by tourists was lost throughout this dispute. This figure was estimated by the Australian Tourism Research Institute in November 1989 (Browne 1997, p.218). Passengers were inconvenienced with cancelled flights. The Australian tourist resorts felt the effect through the occupancy rate, where it was decreased by 50% (Browne 1997, p.218). The unitarist felt that tourism keeps the aviation industry in high demand; therefore the pilots will have secure jobs. The radical perspective views tourism as a reason for business. The pluralists view the tourism industry as a means of conflict and another industry for management to dominate.
Overall each approach has its weaknesses and strengths. In this case the radical approach is in favour. The radicals view the state to protect the industry which is what they did. Unions are considered as troublemakers. Pluralists viewed the employees and the employers in a way that they are working towards similar, if not same goals. Unitarists believe that one reason for conflict is poor communication between both parties.