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Systems Approach

Dunlopian Model
• The systems approach has been a combination of
traditions, customs and a web of action, reaction and
interaction between parties. The systems approach is
given by Prof. John T. Dunlop of the Harvard University
(1958) and is also referred as Dunlop’s Approach.
Dunlop analyses industrial relations system as a
subsystem of the society.
• He suggested that industrial relations system could be
divided into four interrelated elements comprising
certain actors, certain contexts, an ideology binding the
industrial relations system together and a body of rules
created to govern the actors at the workplace.
A simplified version of Dunlop’s
Approach to Industrial Relation

Environmental Forces

Participants in the Sytem

1.Market or Workers Rules of
Budgetary Management workplace
of power in
Elements of System Model of
Industrial Relation-Dunlop
• The Actors in the system
• The Contexts of systems
• The Ideology of an Industrial Relations System
• The Network or Web of Rules
The Actors in the system
• A hierarchy of managers and their
representatives in supervision
• A hierarchy of workers (non-managerial) and
any spokesman
• Specialized government agencies (like labour
courts) created by the first two actors
concerned with workers’ enterprises and their
The Contexts of systems
• The technological characteristics of the workplace and
work community. Changes in technology enhance the
employers expectations about the skills of workers. The
work processes and methods with modern techniques
reduce manual work and workers acquire greater control
over work and higher production can be achieved.
• The market or budgetary (economic) constraints also
influences industrial relations because the need for labour
is closely associated with the demand for the products.
• The locus and distribution of power in the larger society in
the form of power centres-the workers, the employers and
the government also influences the relationship between
labour and management
The Ideology of an Industrial Relations
• In the words of Dunlop, an ideology is a “set of
ideas and beliefs commonly held by the actors
that helps to build or integrate the system
together as an entity.” Its body of common
ideas that defines the role and place of each
actor and the ideas that each actor holds
towards the place and function of the others
in the system. The ideology of a stable system
involves a congruence or compatibility among
these views and the rest of the system.
The Network or Web of Rules
For Dunlop, the establishment of procedures and rules
is the centre of attention in an industrial relations
system. These rules may be expressed in a variety of
• the regulations and policies of the management
• the regulations, decrees, decisions, awards or order of
government agencies
• The rules and decisions of specialized agencies created
by the management and worker hierarchies
• Collective bargaining agreements.
• The customs and traditions of the workplace and work
Shortcomings/Criticism of Dunlop’s
• It is static, not dynamic in time.
• It concentrates on the structure of the system
ignoring the processes within it.
• It tends to ignore the essential element of all
industrial relations that of the nature and
development of conflicts itself.
• It focuses on formal rules to the neglect of
important informal rules and informal processes.
• It may not be integrated and it is a problematic
whether or not the actors share a common
Shortcomings/Criticism of Dunlop’s
• It fails to give an account of how inputs into the system
are converted into outputs.
• It is environmentally biased and provides no
articulation between the internal plant level systems
and the wider systems.
• It favours an analytical approach based on comparison
rather than a problem solving approach built on
• It makes no special provision for the role of individual
personalities in industrial in industrial relations as the
actors are being viewed in a structural rather than in a
dynamic sense