Sunday 1 November, 3.45pm until 5.15pm, Courtyard Gallery
Responses to the economic crisis have ranged from ‘boss-napping’ in France to factory occupations in London and Belfast. It might appear there is a new militancy afoot, but the bigger picture is that responses are typically individualistic, even therapeutic, such as personal grievance procedures against bullying bosses and demands for counselling for over-worked, ‘stressed out’ employees. Unite is even providing personal fitness lessons to Honda workers in Swindon during a four-month shutdown.
Where ‘collective’ responses do occur, they can take a surprisingly altruistic form. A recent survey of distribution workers found they are prepared to be flexible if it will stop colleagues losing their jobs. The Swindon Honda workers voted in May to accept a temporary pay cut to save jobs. Over 400 such ideas have been submitted to the ‘Keep Britain Working’ campaign. Do these initiatives represent a new solidarity, or fatalism and despair? Is it better to be pragmatic than to make demands that seem unrealistic? What role is there for the unions?
Is the best recession-proofing strategy simply to work on one’s CV? Even before the crisis, Lord Leitch wrote in a government report that if ‘skills were once a key lever for prosperity and fairness. Skills are now increasingly the key lever’. The unions agreed, demanding accredited life-long learning and training opportunities for their members. Can qualifications protect us from the recession? In our service-oriented ‘knowledge economy’, the training on offer is often in generic ‘competences’, such as the ability to listen, or work with others. Does up-skilling in these ‘soft skills’ leave workers with anything of value beyond flexibility and compliance? What is the best way for all of us to protect our livelihoods?
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assistant editor of the Financial Times; FT columnist; editor, FT’s special reports
civil servant; qualified FE teacher; organiser, Leeds Salon
|Professor Lorna Unwin|
professor of vocational education and deputy director, ESRC-funded LLAKES Centre, Institute of Education, University of London
|Dr Glynne Williams|
senior lecturer in industrial relations, University of Leicester
director, membership and events, Academy of Ideas; convenor, IoI Book Club; IoI’s resident expert in all sporting matters
Behind the UK postal dispute is the spectre of privatisation and the authorities’ inability to take responsibility for basic state services.Mick Hume, spiked, 21 October 2009
A spate of suicides at France Télécom, most recently a young woman in Paris, has highlighted the country’s malaise.Adam Sage, The Times, 23 September 2009
Angry lorry drivers at struggling transportation company threaten to pour more than 8,000 litres of toxic fuel additive into Parisian river unless their demands for redundancy pay-offs are metLizzy Davies, Guardian, 20 August 2009
After decades of steady decline, trade unions face their biggest challenge – persuading a new generation of workers that, in the face of the worst recession since the 1930s, being a union member really will make a difference to their working lives.Caroline Palmer, Guardian, 1 August 2009
High-profile industrial disputes are becoming rarer as the economic crisis forces both sides to work together on saving jobsTim Webb, Guardian, 3 July 2009
Interest in learning at work has captured the attention of many people around the world, often taking centre stage in policy debates. This book is about the everyday learning that goes on in workplaces – ranging from offices, factories and shops to gyms, health centres and universities.
Lorna Unwin et. al., Routledge, 16 April 2009
Public opinion is behind the bossnappers. President Sarkozy, fearful of a social explosion of the sort that has rocked France so often in the past, has avoided the suggestion that bossnappings might be wrong and pledged support for protesting workers.Adam Sage, The Times, 4 April 2009
Should employers try to re-skill staff rather than lay them off? Well, definitely – maybe.Ross Bentley, Personneltoday.com, 9 March 2009
The picture of a resurgent union militancy is arguably misplaced despite the latest eruption. Contrast last week's scenes in Britain – of a few localised, disparate groups taking action – with those in France.Mark Leftly, Independent, 1 February 2009