Work organisation and management strategies in consumer electronics : theoretical issues and case study evidence
This thesis is concerned with the patterns of work and employment within foreign owned multinationals operating in the UK's consumer electronics industry. The focus is on evaluating current debates on whether there has been any changes or shifts in relations between capital and labour, which constitute a new paradigm. There is a growing set of literature which argues that Japanese capitalism is providing new paradigms for work relations which result in highly cooperative associations between worker and employer. Much of the evidence for such claims comes from studies of Japanese owned plants operating in the UK and US. However, there is little depth to such studies, which mainly consist of interviews with managers or questionnaires. Through selection of a case study methodology and by critically assessing the nature of Japanese managerial techniques, this research challenges fundamentally the 'Japanisation' school. Moreover, the thesis provides contradictory findings concerning 'flexibility'. More tentatively, the thesis contributes to debates on labour segmentation based on gender, and on the wider debate around 'new industrial relations'. The research was based on four case studies, three Japanese and one European, but not British, owned plants of large multinational corporations. The headquarters of the Japanese plants were also visited, as were plants in Japan. More than 50 taped interviews were conducted with over 100 managers, workers and trade union officials from the UK and Japan. In addition, factory visits were made at each plant more than once and often with a almost a year between visits. The main findings are that the plants did not display any of thefeatures attributed to 'Japanisation', except with the marginal exception of the European plant. Techniques, such as 'just-in-time' and direct participation between employees and management to the exclusion of unions, were not in evidence. Instead, management was concerned with maximising production runs, minimising change and constantly trying to control workers, who were themselves conscious that for most of them, their work was repetitive boring and, especially for the women, deskilled.