An industrial relations officer typically works in a human resources position and manages relations between factory employees and upper management. These relations officers do not work outside manufacturing industries. Instead, they specialize on issues key to manufacturing the business they represent. There are few third-party industrial relations officers. Most work for only one company and are hired on a full-time basis.
One of the key jobs of the industrial relations office is conflict management. Conflicts occur when upper management makes decisions that factory employees find unreasonable, or vice versa (a possibility in unionized industries). These conflicts can spill over into widespread legal matters or even strikes and lawsuits. The industrial relations officer works to meet with both properties, discuss differences of opinion and create a compromise that solve the problem for both sides without causing it to escalate.
If a conflict between factory employers and employees does escalate and enters into legal areas, the industrial relations officer will represent a side. Which side he represents may depend on the duties of his job. Some industrial relations officers may represent their company before an industrial tribunal, if their industry and government regulations require this.
Industrial relations officers typically start their jobs in research, and research continues to be an important part of the job once they are promoted. The officers must study legal matters (a background in law is useful), including other industrial disputes and how they were resolved, along with new regulations and how they may affect the industry or company decisions.
Industrial officers do not prefer conflict. One of their responsibilities is to prevent it whenever possible. They often communicate important business decisions to employees and relay employee communications back to upper management, acting as a go between. This way, the officers can help the different parties understand each other and their sometimes differing motivations.