wages and labour

Wages and labour disputes are two things that have always gone hand in hand since the beginning of time. Wages are the major cause of a labour dispute, and it could lead to something as big as a strike or shutdown. 

When workers feel unsatisfied with their current wages compared to the work they put in, it could lead to a labour dispute. 

What are Wages?

Wages are payments, typically in the form of money, for work or services, typically by a contract and on an hourly, daily, or piecework basis.

Wages are different from salaries. The fundamental difference between wages and a salary is that a salaried individual is a person who receives a fixed amount each pay period, with the sum of these fixed payments over the course of a year equaling the salary. A person who receives a wage receives their pay according to the hours they work on a daily or weekly basis.

Minimum Wage Laws

The minimum wage law is a law created to protect the rights of employees. The term minimum wage refers to the minimum amount that an employer is required to pay wage earners for the work performed during a given period, which cannot be reduced by a collective agreement or an individual contract.

What is a Labour Dispute?

Labour Dispute is a situation where a conflict emerges between two parties in a work association, generally between employees and employers. Most of the time, these disagreements are about benefits, pay, working conditions, organizational procedures, and working hours. 

Labour disputes are quite common and have existed for a long time. Strikes at work or lockouts result from labour disputes. These are bad for the businesses and organizations they have disputes with, as they prompt an absence of productivity and benefits. At times, it can cause the organization to close for some time.

Labour disputes have also brought positive change to the workforce, both in the private sector and in government. Many labour disputes emerged from businesses and employees having various discernments or understandings of the job. Since labour disputes can ultimately be detrimental to the business, it is essential to identify and resolve them early.

Causes of Labour Disputes

The following are the causes of labour disputes.

Employee Benefits

Disputes due to differences of opinion on what benefits employees deserve and are entitled to. When there are disagreements over expectations of employee benefits, it can lead to a labour dispute.

Bad Working Conditions

Bad working conditions are a major cause of labour disputes. Concerns about the hours of work they’re subjected to without extra pay, or a lack of safety precautions being considered can cause disagreements.


Discrimination is when a fraction of people starts feeling or noticing unfair treatment due to certain characteristics they have.

For instance, a labour dispute can lead to a strike or shutdown if a section of people from a particular race or sexuality notice and feel they are being treated differently in a bad way compared to their peers due to their being different.

Legal or Contract Disputes

Disagreements over contracts, union problems, or legal interference could cause labour disputes.

Management Problems

A lack of communication between the management and its employees and the emergence of different leadership styles can cause job security concerns, which can lead to labour disputes.

Low Wages

Disagreements regarding pay expectations are one of the main causes of labour disputes. The employees and the organization might have different assumptions about the compensation deserved by workers, which could lead to a labour dispute.

Labour Dispute Example

There are different real-life examples of labour disputes that have resulted in strikes and shutdowns. In May 2023, writers from the Writers Guild of America went on an indefinite strike. This strike will go on to affect your favourite shows like Stranger Things, Abbott Elementary, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and so many other good ones.  

This is a result of a labour dispute between the writers’ unions and their employers, which are the entertainment media houses.

The writers have complained that ever since the emergence of streaming, the residuals they have received for their involvement in some shows have seen a significant drop, and they have complained that a lot of writers are going broke and bankrupt despite having a hit show currently on air. 

This above example was caused because the Writers Guild of America’s union demanded better wages for their writers. There is a slippery slope between low wages and labour disputes in the workforce.

Strike Actions

A strike action, also known as a labour strike, is a work stoppage that occurs when a large number of employees refuse to work. Typically, a strike is called in response to complaints from employees. 

During the Industrial Revolution, when factories and mines relied heavily on mass labour, strikes became common. Governments were frequently compelled to act (either by private businesses or by union workers) as strikes became more common.  

Labour union representatives start most strikes during collective bargaining as a last resort. A strike might consist of employees declining to go to work or picketing outside their working environment to discourage individuals from working in their place or leading business with their boss. Workers may occasionally occupy the workplace but refuse to perform their duties or leave.

Ways to Solve a Labour Dispute

There are several ways employers can solve or avoid a labour dispute with employees and union representatives. These methods can turn an already bad situation around if done right.

Communication and Bargaining

Communicating and collective bargaining are the processes through which employers and employees lay out the terms and conditions of their employment. If either side breaks the rules, it will bring attention to problems that need to be fixed.


During the bargaining and communication process, both parties involved in the dispute can appoint a mediator who will mediate and communicate their terms and conditions. This action can bring different results, as both parties may or may not accept the mediator’s recommendations.


Employers and leaders should actively listen to employees’ and union representatives’ concerns and complaints. They should show empathy and understanding for their points of view. This can help build trust and improve working relationships.

Willingness to Compromise

Talks should be had with a compromise mindset. Before negotiations, it is best to identify the company’s needs rather than its wants. Being able to identify what works and what doesn’t for both parties and using those things as a starting point for negotiation is beneficial for both sides.

Key Takeaways

  • Wages are payments for work or services, typically by a contract and on an hourly, daily, or piecework basis.
  • A labour dispute occurs when there is a conflict between two parties in a work association, generally between employees and employers.
  • Strike actions are usually a direct response to labour disputes.
  • Labor disputes can be resolved through collective bargaining and mediation.


Q. What is the most common cause of labour disputes?

Ans: Different situations can cause a labour dispute, but the two main ones are bad working conditions and low wages. 

Q. What does “labour dispute” mean?

Ans: A labour dispute is a conflict between two parties in a work association, generally between employees and employers. Most of the time, these disagreements are about benefits, pay, working conditions, organizational procedures, and working hours.

Q. What can be involved in a labour dispute?

Ans: A labour dispute can involve different issues ranging from low wages, bad working conditions, discrimination, bad management, union representation, and contract disputes, among others. 

Q. What is wage theft?

Ans: Wage theft is the failure to pay wages or provide benefits to employees that are required by contract or law.

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