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Employee And Labor Relations


One of the most challenging and disconcerting decisions faced by employers and human resource (HR) managers in establishing a fair and equitable standard for promotion. Many public and private sector organizations are in a dilemma when creating union contract clauses because the HR managers may prefer merit or ability-based criteria while trade traditionally unions prefer allocation of employment opportunities based on seniority (Budd, 2021). Unfortunately, Kim (2020) explains that there is no definite answer consensus to this dilemma because both merit-based and seniority-based criteria are supported by seemingly strong arguments. This presentation develops a case for the contention that the selection of a younger employee in favor of a senior colleague did not violate the existing union contract.

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Bases of Allocating Employment Opportunities

The decision regarding the allocation of employment opportunities, including career progression and compensation, are usually made on either the basis of seniority or merit or both (Horak & Yang, 2019). Seniority refers to the length of recognized service or employment with an organization (Yaw, 2017). According to Budd (2021), seniority includes the number of days since a worker was hired. In contrast, merit relates to the ability to do a job or how qualified an individual is for a given job. In the United States, seniority rights are part of the employee rights that are granted in many public and private sector union contracts across the country. Many employers tend to strive to strike a balance between the two criteria to meet the expectations of HR managers and unions.

The HR Manager Role

The Picasso Company’s pain gun factory case presents the HR manager with a management dilemma where the professional has to develop a strong case for the contention that the selection of Mary Younger, the candidate with the shorter length of service at the corporation but with great ability, did not violate the provisions of the union contract. In developing the defense, the HR manager takes into account several factors, including the qualification of the potential candidates for promotion, potentially relevant contract provisions, and enforcement of the contract provisions. In addition to that, considerations for making a fair and equitable selection and potential consequences of the merit and seniority-based promotion will be assessed to inform the HR manager’s position.

Grievance Discussion Case 2: Full Consideration of Seniority and Ability

A group of first shift staff of Picasso Company’s paint gun factory called for a shift manager. The factory Manager, Sharon Murphy, embraced the idea and began establishing the criteria for filling the new position. The ideal candidate should be “a knowledgeable employee to whom others could turn for help and who would troubleshoot and offer suggestions, or do whatever else was necessary to make the operation run more smoothly and efficiently” (Budd, 2021, p. 336). After working for the company since March 1987 and as a second and third shift leader for five years with no grievances, Elder resigned and took a junior position to work during the day in order to spend more time with his family.

Younger had served the firm since July 1991 and progressed to become a qualified mechanist first class but had not been promoted due to lack of opportunity. After interviewing the applicants and consulting with a supervisor, Rich Hatch, the store manager, selected Younger to lead the first shift team. Consequently, Elder filed a grievance claim challenging the decision to promote junior workers on the ground that the company did not give full consideration to his seniority and qualification (Budd, 2021). Analyzing the job applicants’ seniority and abilities to perform the available work provides nuanced insights into the efficiency and fairness of the selection decision.

Relevant Contract Provisions

This slide presents the two sections that are most relevant to the case. The provisions of the two classes outline employee and management rights and obligations that should be adhered to when filling new job openings and vacancies that are covered by the contract.

Section 20.1 details the requirements for awarding a job bid. It states: “When job openings occur…, the corporation shall post on its bulletin boards a notice of such opening or vacancy, indicating the rate of pay for a period of three (3) days, in order to afford employees an opportunity to qualify for such opening or vacancy on the basis of seniority and ability to perform the available work.…” (Budd, 2021, p. 336).

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Section 20.4 Stipulates the scope of the contract. It states: “The provisions of this section, however, shall not be construed to prevent the corporation from immediately filling vacancies in order to maintain schedule production requirements … In filling vacancies in leader positions covered by this agreement, the corporation agrees to give full consideration to seniority and the qualifications of employees in filling such vacancies” (Budd, 2021, p. 336).


There are several justifications in support of the contention that the selection of Mary Younger did not breach the collective bargaining agreement. Seniority was just one of the criteria or partly a factor for consideration. According to the agreement, both seniority and qualification ought to be emphasized when filling new vacancies. In this regard, the ability to perform the available work outweighs the issue of seniority because both candidates have almost the same length of service. Furthermore, although Younger had not been promoted to the mechanist first-class position, she was more qualified and able to perform the work of the mechanist first-class leader than her competitor. She performed better on interpersonal and communication skills, which are critical to leadership positions. Empirical evidence shows that effective interpersonal communication skills have a substantial impact on organizational effectiveness (Okoro et al., 2017). Consequently, based on these qualities, Younger was the most qualified candidate.

In addition, Younger outperformed Elder in terms of scheduling flexibility and discipline. Efficiency is one of the primary objectives of the employment objectives of contracts. It helps in averting unnecessary disruption to production and operations (Budd, 2021). Selecting Younger would promote flexibility and productivity because she is more flexible in time of scheduling, which in turn would enhance organizational effectiveness.

Consistent with Yaw (2017), promoting the senior-most candidate might have stifled organizational effectiveness due to age, ability, and efficiency concerns. There is a positive relationship between interpersonal communication skills and organizational effectiveness (Okoro et al., 2017). Concerns such as Elder’s inability to arrive at work early enough to discuss instructions and challenges with the second shift leader could be detrimental to organizational efficiency, productivity, and effectiveness. These observations provide a strong rationale for selecting Younger to fill the new position.

Advantages of Seniority Promotion

Research shows that seniority-based promotion – prioritizing candidates with the longest time of service with the organization when allocating employment opportunities – is more objective and easy to measure compared to other criteria. For example, seniority can be computed by simply counting the number of days since a worker was hired and comparing it with other employees’ records (Budd, 2021).

Furthermore, the seniority-based approach eliminates biased decisions. Unlike merit and ability criteria which are largely subjective, seniority-based systems have no scope for favoritism or discrimination. By eliminating arbitrary treatment associated with subjective criteria, seniority promotions enhance job security and satisfaction, consequently enhancing employee performance and loyalty to the organization (Yamin et al., 2020). These reasons explain why seniority-based systems are widely adopted in many private and public sector union contracts in America.

Limitations of Seniority Promotion

The seniority-based approach has a number of drawbacks related to promotion and other employment opportunities. Seniority is not a measure of an individual’s level of competence or talent (Kim, 2020). Research shows that more seniors tend to be less productive, enthusiastic, and resistant to change, and sometimes lack self-initiative, which may prove detrimental to organizational efficiency and productivity (Horak & Yang, 2019; Siregar, Yanto, & Rozi, 2019).

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Moreover, seniority-based systems are premised on entitlement rather than self-improvement. Recognizing and rewarding individual performance, efficiency, and talents prove an incentive for improving individual performance and development (Horak & Yang, 2019). By promoting senior employees, younger employees become frustrated, dissatisfied with the work, and motivated in terms of career advancement, which may prove difficult for a company to attract and retain more talented and hardworking employees (Yaw, 2017).

In addition, drawing on their research in higher education institutions in Italy, Marini and Meschitti (2018) found that the seniority criterion can promote gender discrimination in the allocation of employment opportunities.

Lastly, seniority promotion may stifle innovation because junior employees may be discouraged or less motivated to introduce ideas. These reasons provide a strong case for justifying the selection of Younger in favor of Elder.

Plan of Action

Trade unions mostly prefer seniority as the basis for awarding job bids and other employment opportunities as they are interested in satisfying the interests of the majority of their members. Considering the strengths and limitations of various bases of employee promotions, the corporation should develop a more generic promotion policy that places more emphasis on the parameters of individual ability and performance than seniority. HR managers mostly emphasize merit while giving promotions. This approach aligns with their interest to enhance organizational effectiveness by enriching their human resources (Budd, 2021).

Placing greater focus on merit when making promotions will enable the management to achieve higher organizational effectiveness and encourage substantial improvement in engagement, morale, performance, innovation, and retention of younger, more talented personnel (Okoro et al., 2017; Siregar et al., 2019; Williams & Yecalo‐Tecle, 2020). At the same time, recognizing seniority will help meet the interest of trade unions and employees with longer tenure.


Any decision regarding the career progression of workers is bound to create uneasiness or frustration among staff. Seniority remains a primary consideration when making employment decisions related to employee compensation, training, and promotion. Despite being one of the most important factors that matters relating to the allocation of employment opportunities and widely incorporated in many private and public sector contracts, seniority promotions can be detrimental to junior, hardworking, and more talented employees. In the Picasso Company’s case, the union contract recognizes seniority as one of the bases of promotion. However, the ability to perform the available work outweighs the positives related to promoting a more senior leader or manager. Therefore, the decision to select Younger in favor of Elder did not violate the contract provisions.


Budd, J. W. (2021). Employee relations: Striking a balance. McGraw Hill Education.

Horak, S., & Yang, I. (2019). Whither seniority? Career progression and performance orientation in South Korea. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 30(9), 1419-1447. Web.

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Kim, P. S. (2020). New development: A new principle—The higher the position, the broader the view. Public Money & Management, 40(4), 326-329.

Marini, G., & Meschitti, V. (2018). The trench warfare of gender discrimination: Evidence from academic promotions to full professor in Italy. Scientometrics, 115(2), 989-1006. Web.

Okoro, E., Washington, M. C., & Thomas, O. (2017). The impact of interpersonal communication skills on organizational effectiveness and social self-efficacy: A synthesis. International Journal of Language and Linguistics, 4(3), 28-32.

Siregar, A. S., Yanto, H., & Rozi, F. (2019). The effect of financial compensation, job stress, and job promotion on employee performance through job satisfaction at PT. MNC Vision in Central Java. Journal of Economic Education, 8(2), 104-111.

Williams, M. J., & Yecalo‐Tecle, L. (2020). Innovation, voice, and hierarchy in the public sector: Evidence from Ghana’s civil service. Governance, 33(4), 789-807. Web.

Yaw, W. K. (2017). Investigation on promotional criteria based on human resource practices for better organizational effectiveness. Journal of Contemporary Issues and Thought, 7, 68-78. Web.

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