Effective communication is essential to comprehensive labour relations. Positive communication can be vital to the existence of an institution and reduces the possibility of conflict and labour strife within the institution.

According to Louis Allen, “Communication is the sum of all things, one person does when he wants to create understanding in mind of another. It involves systematic and continuous process of telling, listening and understanding”.

Katz and Kahn (1978), opined that communication is the exchange of information and the transmission of meaning, it is the very essence of a social system of an organization. It involves the transfer of information from the sender to the receiver with information being understood by the receiver.

Communication is the means by which people in organization exchange information and transmit meaning from sender (encoder) to receiver (decoder) regarding the operations of the organization. It involves some interchange of ideas, emotions and facts between and among people through words, letters and symbols.

Hence, it is the process of sending and receiving information. It is also the sharing of ideas for mutual understanding. For an effective communication, there must be a common frame of reference between the sender and the receiver. In order words, there must be a common understanding of the intent and purposes of the message sent by the receiver. Therefore, communication can only take place when a message is sent, received and well understood by both parties. In essence, for communication to be effective, the message must be meaningful and relevant.

Labour relations is a composite and dynamic discipline and it is all about interface. Labour relations as a three-way relationship has various essential participants involved in the process, namely employees, employers and the state. This relationship is a human relationship, administered by rules and regulations. The parties to the employment relationship should be cheered to communicate and collaborate in resolving differences and in remedying workplace issues in a rigorous labour environment.


Communication is a means of inter-changing behaviours, perceptions and values, of getting others to act and to sense in a different way, and of forming understanding. . Communication is a fundamental feature in the labour relationship, aimed at guaranteeing that common understanding is achieved in the fulfilment of a desired outcome. Communication is a process whereby a sender sends a message to a receiver, who then interprets the message and donates it with meaning. The receiver may then reply, communicating their own message. The efficacy of the communication is determined by whether the message transferred is interpreted by the receiver as having the same meaning that the sender intended. It is therefore vital that the intended message is passed on.

Communication comprises verbal (both written and oral) and nonverbal communication (kinesics behaviour, object language, proxemics and paralanguage), both of which can be found in the labour relationship. Communication is information in passage and employers and employees need to receive and transmit information to coordinate their actions and perform their tasks. Communication is the procedure through which the receiver’s attitude or behaviour and knowledge are altered or confirmed in some determined manner.


Labour relations are a very important part of society’s overall behaviour, and one will know the factors affecting labour and their relations. Labour relation as an interdisciplinary area of research deals with the current processes of control of dynamic individual and collective labour relations and organizational leadership. It operates in a wider environment, with a consideration of the conditions under which the work is carried out in such a way that the meets the desires of all parties. The relationship of labour is complex and of both person and collective in nature.

Relationships between labour and management are the most complex set of relationships that any HR Manager can deal with. Effective management of labour relations lets HR Managers create a harmonious atmosphere within the enterprise that in turn lets the company accomplish its goals and objectives efficiently. Well-managed employee ties offer a strategic edge for organization by negating the hassles arising out of labour or union related issues and conflicts. Even though communication remains one of the significant component in the labour relationship, limited organizations and their managers give ample attention, time and resources to ensure that effective communication processes and systems are in order. Communication as a process should receive much attention from both employers and employees and the communication flow should be enhanced to ensure that the message sent and the message received are alike.


A trustful environment has to be formed in any institution to ensure the finest possible communication. The organization in the institution refers to the alliance of the workforce to reach the objectives of the institution.

4 types of messages used in the communication process in an institution:

1. Maintain healthy relationships

2. Define responsibilities and everyday jobs

3. Providing coaching and instructions

4. Communicate the goals and philosophy of the institution.

Employees should be at liberty to claim their rights, but not at the cost of others. If aggression and the manipulation of other workers can be avoided, the atmosphere should be favourable to people listening to each other and understanding each other. Labour relations are concerned with the worker, not only as a factor of production but also as an individual who brings needs, expectations and goals to the workplace.

Labour relations in the public sector focuses mostly on remunerations and situations of service. However, in practice this relationship includes negotiations and bargaining on issues such as involvement in policy making in terms of issues such as transformation and favourable action. These issues create achievers and losers, new collectivises and alliances, all of which call for new labour relations and communication processes.

The Labour Relations Act, 66 of 1995 (LRA), brought new labour relations procedures in the public sector. Workers were permitted to organise and bargain freely with managers about the establishment of the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC), the right to join unions and the right to strike. Union membership improved speedily and a number of agreements were struck. The PSCBC struggles to further good communication between the state as the employer and public servants as the employees. It is a formal communication channel and has the charge of maintaining the authority structure. Proceedings can be validated and official feedback is ensured. The employer and the employee can share information on an official basis.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) issued a Recommendation[1] on the subject of communication in the labour relationship. The Recommendation reads `it is in the common interest (of employers and employees) . . . to recognise the importance of a climate of mutual understanding and confidence within undertakings that is favourable both to the efficiency of the undertaking and to the aspirations of the workers’.

The ILO regards communication with employees as extremely important and recommends that employees should constantly be consulted when establishing communication channels in an institution, as employee would confirm effective communication and a positive labour relations ambience.

The guidelines for an effective communication policy include the following:

1. The policy of the institution should ensure that ‘information is given and that consultation takes place between the parties concerned before decisions on matters of major interest are taken by management.’

2. The method of communication should ‘in no way derogate from the freedom of association should in no way cause bias to the freely chosen workers’ representatives or to their organisations’. Communication should therefore not be guided through any other person if a representative body has been established.

3. Steps should be taken ‘to train those concerned in the use of communication methods and to make them as far as acquainted with all the subjects in respect of which communication takes place’. Training for shop agents or any other employee representatives should therefore be promoted and given when needed.

4. Means should be made available for employee agents to communicate any information to employees.

 5. Two-way communication should be promoted between management and employee representatives (although direct communication between employees and management is strongly advised), through a proper communication system in the organisation.

6. It is recommended that the communication policy should be ‘adapted to the nature of the undertaking concerned, account being taken of its size and of the composition and interests of the work force’.

7. National practice and the circumstances of each particular situation should be taken into consideration when determining the medium of communication as well as the timing.


Labour relations is all about people in the workplace. It involves elements that are part of all human relationships, such as friendship and any other forms of union between people. This dynamic relationship should also be based on what is required to make any relationship work. Therefore, communication as one of the keystones of any effective and successful relationship is also part of the labour relationship. Communication is an essential feature for survival and no institution can exist without it. The labour relationship and communication are composite and involve participants working together to create meaning through switching information in the work surroundings. The rules that an institution must comply with in the labour relationship and communication in an institution are nationally determined through legislation and internationally through recommendations by institutions such as the International Labour Organisation.

[1] No.129 of 1967