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Term denoting the clash of interests, and resultant disputes of varying intensity, between different individuals, groups and organizations in the industrial relations system. Industrial conflict may centre around differences in values and objectives, and relationships in terms of status, power and distribution. Depending on the onlooker's theoretical viewpoint and position, industrial conflicts are perceived either as disruptive to the proper functioning of society or as providing an impetus for social change and progress. They exist at every level of industrial relations, with localized conflicts even within the separate groups of actors. Like any other disagreement, they are affected by emotional tensions between the actors concerned and by various outside influences.

In the interests of the uninterrupted flow of goods and services, efforts are made at establishment and company level to keep industrial conflict to the unavoidable minimum. Conflicts arise at this level mainly as a result of structural conditions, e.g. hierarchies, discrepancies between status, powers and responsibility or informal manifestations of authority and subordination. Against this background, management concepts such as the functional application of corporate cultures seek to avoid the segmentation of individuals or groups and thereby prevent inherent conflict from taking root. Beyond this level, the potential areas of industrial conflict in the overall structure of industrial relations in the Federal Republic are separated to a relatively rigid degree. General disputes about the distribution of resources (essentially, working hours and pay) are assigned exclusively to the parties to collective agreements . On the other hand, the clash of interests regarding direct terms and conditions of employment is handled within the formalized context of the works constitution . In this connection, the purpose of imposing on works council and employer the obligation of co-operation in good faith is to release the parties at establishment level from the traditional clash of interests between capital and labour.

Please note: the European industrial relations glossaries were compiled between 1991 and 2003 and are not updated. For current material see the European industrial relations dictionary.

Page last updated: 14 August, 2009