The Pluralist perspective of industrial relations is just as the name suggests, they see organisations as constellations of different groups. The organisation is seen as multi-structured in terms of groups, leadership, authority and loyalty. A miniature democratic state composed of sectional groups with divergent interests over which the government tries to maintain some kind of dynamic equilibrium. The main groups within this perspective that find themselves at the opposite ends of the scales often are the workers and managers. This can be down to a number of issues such as pay, working conditions, bonuses and working hours and it is over issues like these that conflict often occurs. The pluralist perspective during the twentieth century include a widespread distribution of authority and power in society, ownership separation from management, political separation and industrial conflict and an acceptance and institutionalization of conflict in both spheres.
The priciple assumption of pluralist perspective of industrial relations is that the individuals organisation comprises groups which have their own aims, interests and leadership. These aims and interests often conflict and compete with other groups and give rise to tensions which have to be management. The pluralist organisation has many source of loyalty and authority in groups, trade unions and other sectional interests. Pluralist organisation approach sees conflicts of interest and disagreements between managers and workers over the distribution of profits as normal and inescapable. According to the pluralist perspective, management-employee conflict is both rational and inevitable and stems from the different roles of managerial and employee groups. Consequently, the role of management would lean less towards enforcing and controlling and more toward persuasion and co-ordination. Trade unions are deemed as legitimate representatives of employees. Conflict is dealt by collective bargaining and is viewed not necessarily as a bad thing and if managed could in fact be channeled towards evolution and positive change. Realistic managers should accept conflict to occur. There is a greater propensity for conflict rather than harmony. For pluralist perspective, the trade unions are legitimate representative organisations which enable employees groups to influence management decisions. Pluralist perspective also accepts that employees have loyalties to organisations other than their own management and that trade unions are a legitimate source of these loyalties.
Pluralists believe that the interests of their employees compete with the organisations interest as there are always tensions over the price of labour and the levels of taxation. Trade unions are seen as helpful as they are seen as reflecting and regulation emergent conflicts between employees and the employer and they also help to defend the position of the employees so on their behalf at least they are seen as legitimate. The Pluralist view of conflict differs vastly to that of the Unitarists who believe that conflict is fractural, not structural and avoidable, the Pluralists believe the conflict is inherent within the employee relationship. They believe this because they acknowledge the differences between different employees and different groups within the organisation. Whereas Unitarists try to make the whole organisation into one team Pluralists acknowledge the different groups within an organisation and understand that at times they will not see eye to eye and their interest may differ. The answer to this conflict is to for the different employees and groups to not dwell on the problems and concentrate on resolving their differences and work together for the good of the business. This is how Pluralist try to maintain the order, with the management of conflict in place of trying to pretend it doesn’t exist or giving up on trying to resolve it, like Unitarists and Marxists. Pluralists see conflict as something constructive on occasions as it can indicate times when things need to be changed in the organisation and it can indicate differences that need to be resolved.