Worker consent to lean, flexible production in a depressed regional economy : a case study examination of two companies operating JIT.
This thesis examines how worker consent is achieved in two Japanese
owned Multi National Companies (MNC) based in the North East of
England: Nissan Motor Manufacturer UK and its part owned supplier
company Ikeda Hoover Ltd. These companies have adopted lean, flexible
work practices which proponents claim constitute a reversal of Taylorist
work methods as workers are able to participate in the attainment of
corporate goals. The adoption of such practices, it is claimed, will lead to a
fundamental alteration in British industrial relations as worker hostility to
management demands will be reduced as workers are able to 'make their
This research illustrates that while Multi National companies select
environments best suited to the attainment of worker consent, it cannot be
assumed that the advantages they gain will be shared by component
suppliers which seek to operate a Just in Time (JIT) production system
through close proximity. Secondly, while large manufacturers operating JIT
choose supplier companies which adopt practices similar to their own, it
cannot be assumed that similarity can be maintained. This research
illustrates that JIT increases pressure on suppliers and that affects work
process, management style, industrial relations and worker consent within
the supplier company.
I will examine how through an examination of the subjective responses of
workers to the political and economic environment, to employment security,
to self identity, to the labour process and management style. an
understanding of worker consent or resistance to self subordination can be
established. Failure to discover the meanings workers attach to actions
can lead to an overestimation of the genuine level of commitment to
corporate goals and a failure to appreciate the heterogeneity of workers
perspectives and responses and strategies.
Worker consent is dependent on the legitimacy of claims that flexible, lean
working practices can provide employment security.