Reclaiming Our Responsibility Pt II.
In workforces across the developed world, there is a clear demarcation between the "bosses" and the "workers". I don't think this is productive, as it promotes an instinctive antagonism between the two parties. I personally see myself as a "boss", and I control the sale of my labour and skills to others. The person who would traditionally be termed my boss is actually my customer, who purchases said labour and skills from me on a regular basis. In fact, my regular employer is really my best customer. I exploit my employer in the same way that my employer exploits his or her best customer.
So, what if I start to feel dissatisfied with the business relationship I have with my best customer? These days, I could turn to a union. However, I'm not sure the union solution is the most efficient method of solving employee-employer disputes. In many ways, unions act as cartels, strongarming better conditions out of their respective customers (bosses). Let me just state for the record; I have absolutely no problem with the formation of unions. I even accept their right, as a collection of free individuals, to go out on strike if they so choose. I also support the right of their employer to sack them all if s/he chooses. In the current climate the latter would never happen - employees have an important advantage over employers - employees aren't seen as bosses. They're seen as powerless underdogs and boosted accordingly, despite the fact that whilst employees and employers are mutually reliant, the employer is - and should be - the primus inter pares. The entrepreneur is clearly the most productive and valuable member of a community.
Of course, there will be unreasonable and unfair employers, as there are unreasonable and unfair people in general. However, union might is not necessarily the answer to the minority of employers who are thus, especially so because some union leaders are unreasonable and unfair people themselves. In such a case we have a double negative situation unfolding, which compounds unproductivity. However, if employers are unreasonable and - say - sack people unfairly or treat their staff poorly, this is bad for business. Especially if the employer earns a reputation for such practices. Obviously, a reputation like that could convince potential employees not to take up positions in a company with that kind of employment reputation. It is in the interest of the employer to retain good relations with employees, so that the employer won't have trouble employing the best staff in the future - staff that will make the employer's business more profitable. For this scenario to take place, however, some kind of employer-rating facility is required to formalise and rank employers in terms of staff satisfaction.
I propose an employer rating agency. It initially would work in a similar kind of way to eBay's merchant rating system, however over time I would expect it to become more comprehensive and informative. It may also grow to encompass individuals - an online reference at-a-glance, created by previous employers. Right from the start, I should state that the register would probably never be as authoritative as say, a credit rating agency, simply because those that contribute to it (employees) are not experts and there's always going to be biased posters. However, it would be a useful employment guide, especially at workplaces that have a reasonable rate of staff turnover due to their size - that is, all large companies and most medium sized firms. Even many well-established small firms could be accurately represented on such a register.
Since the register would be open, free and hopefully influential, it is vulnerable to specious claims against responsible employers by disgruntled ex-employees, employees and competitors who might like to slander the good employment record of their rivals. Here's where I think the revenue stream for the site would come from. Obviously, an individual would be able to post a review anonymously, however they would have to leave details with the register and be contactable. If a company considers that they are being unfairly represented due to an unreasonably high number of negative reviews, they could pay to have the reviews in question investigated. This would involve staff of the register using information given to them by both the complainant and the company involved. I imagine the investigator would confirm the identity of the complainant and use the company's staff list - past and present - to ensure that this person did or does work at the company. If the complainant's indentity and employment history checks out, their complaint stands. Some might say that it's unfair for the employer to shoulder the cost of a system that is holding them to account. This is perhaps true, however their expenditure on keeping the system accurate would be a tiny fraction of current IR spending, and the whole system would be considerably more flexible for all.
Now I accept that the register would still not be completely foolproof. However, I think there are methods that can be utilised to ensure optimal accuracy. A registry like this would become more feasible as the job market becomes more sophisticated. Responsibility for ensuring the quality of one's employment can be delivered back to the individual. This is the kind of effective self regulation that the employment market would benefit from. No cumbersome, expensive government bureaucracy required. We can reclaim our responsibility.