Labour Studies Index

Rebâtir la confiance après une grève de longue durée : est-ce possible ?

Document type Article
Author Bonin, Geneviève A.
Author Harrisson, Denis
Journal Relations Industrielles / Industrial Relations
Volume 63
Date 2008
ISSN 0034-379X, 1703-8138
Pages 246-267


Cette étude a pour but d’analyser les facteurs contribuant à bâtir la confiance entre employés syndiqués et cadres après une grève de longue durée dans une succursale bancaire. Des entrevues semi-dirigées auprès de treize employés et cinq cadres, des observations et une analyse documentaire ont servi à déterminer ces facteurs. Ces derniers ont été analysés à la lumière des écrits scientifiques pour établir un modèle relationnel et analyser la situation vécue par les membres de l’organisation à l’étude., The effects of strikes have always preoccupied industrial relations’ scholars and practitioners. Even though statistically, there have been fewer strikes in Quebec during the last few years, they have not been of lesser interest. The most recent strikes have been more apparent because of their longer duration. This study discusses trust between managers and unionized employees who have returned to work after a fourteen-month strike. The objective is to better understand the phenomenon of trust in a situation of organizational conflict and, more precisely, to analyze the factors that contribute to re-establishing trust between union employees and managers following this major conflict. A few theoretical concepts about trust help us understand the basic elements needed to produce collaborative relationships. Among other things, categories of trust established by Lewicki and Bunker (1996) as well as Zucker (1986) are presented to help make a better judgment with regard to the different types of relationships and to understand the way in which they present themselves in particular situations. This section ends with an overview of the authors’ theoretical perspective, an institutional approach, which makes reference to Powell and Dimaggio’s (1991) framework. Because of the difficulty to access multiple companies affected by a strike, a qualitative case study was conducted. Thirteen union employees and five managers chosen randomly among each job category from a total of forty-six employees make up the sample. They were interviewed during semi-structured interviews six months following the end of the strike. Observations about individual behaviour during the interview period were also taken into consideration. An analysis of internal documents from the organization helped bring out factual information about the state of the relationship between the two groups before, during and after the strike. It is the use of these three traditional methods that helped construct the case presented. Not only does it explain the events surrounding the conflict by using a balanced approach including information obtained from union employees and company managers, but it also includes references to articles published in local newspapers to give a temporality and a sense of place to the events. Subsequently, the authors undertake a discussion about ways to reconstruct trust among the parties. Tables detailing the factors that can contribute to reconstructing trust according to each party are presented with representative quotes from the semi-structured interviews. In total, three common factors were raised—communication, material investments and human investments. Communication is a central concept, but it also includes its share of complexities because the simple act of communicating is not sufficient. Even if, in basic terms, material investments are perceived as advantages, they are not in practice, according to the literature on this subject. Human investments can also bring new dynamics to a company, but cannot be done to the detrimental need of removing existing personnel. To these factors, the union employees add six additional ones including desire, supervision, recognition and appreciation, respect of the collective agreement and the importance of not resorting to outsourcing. The managers also came up with four additional factors—responsibility, comprehension, company vision and the importance of providing projects to union employees. All these factors are systematically analyzed in the article in direct relation to the written scientific and theoretical literature on these subjects. In light of this analysis, it is possible to establish a relationship between these factors and a hierarchy of their importance that can serve to explore the possibility of reestablishing trust within the organization. These relationships and this hierarchy are presented in an illustration which summarizes the study. Explanations about its creation and the way to interpret it are also included. It is important, however, to note that although the study reveals a number of important factors needed to study trust, it has its limitations which can only be rectified by studying each factor in a distinct fashion and by weighing each one individually during subsequent research. In conclusion, this research demonstrates the difficulty to establish trust within an organization because the company does not recognize the union’s presence and its role. The company is rather searching to achieve its own objectives without taking the values and interests of its employees into account as well as those of the trade union. From a theoretical point of view, the study helps identify the limitations to trust relationships between various groups of employees, the effects of strikes on returning to work and of trust in the after-strike context. Paths for future research are explored. It is suggested to replicate the study in an institution in the same field or in different fields to open the door to the possibility of generalization. Secondly, it is suggested to weigh the factors to find out which ones would have the greatest impact on the creation of trust. And, finally, measuring the level of trust that really exists between the parties would be beneficial in understanding the scope of the division which separates them., El objetivo de este estudio es de analizar los factores que contribuyen a construir la confianza entre empleados sindicalizados y directivos después de una huelga de larga duración en una sucursal bancaria. Para determinar estos factores, se utilizaron entrevistas semi-dirigidas con trece empleados y cinco cuadros, observaciones directas y un análisis documentario. Dichos factores fueron analizados a la luz de escritos científicos para establecer un modelo racional y analizar la situación vivida por los miembros de la organización al estudio.