Let me whisper something in your ear – the Government is moving towards
supporting a clear public policy on work.
There have been a series of significant public events recently that have led
me to believe this. I attended a lecture at Warwick University held in honour
of the legendary chair of Acas, Pat Lowry, who was in the hot seat during more
belligerent times. The speaker, Professor Keith Sisson, outlined the impact of
the new EU directive on information and consultation and made the business case
for improved communication. Structured discussions with represented groups held
the key to stimulating management thinking, he said. Importantly, he said there
is a need for a body to advise us how to do this effectively, never mind
The same theme was picked up in London last week when Chancellor Gordon
Brown, acting "as a warm-up man for Will Hutton", led the applause
for the relaunch of the Industrial Society as the Work Foundation.
The Chancellor, Hutton, Peter Ellwood from Lloyds TSB and Gail Rebuck from
publishers Random House were all singing from the same hymn sheet.
Hutton used the phrase "just and creative capitalism". For me,
that is the point in a nutshell. If people feel they are valued, respected and
working in a ‘just’ environment, it is much more likely they will respond to the
productivity challenge that faces us all.
The Work Foundation also advocates the creation of a viable institutional
base to tie these concepts together. Perhaps it could take the shape of a
Centre for Work and Productivity.
Most European countries have quasi-governmental bodies that feed best
practice into public policy. Hutton is even calling for a Minister for
Management while most managers are reluctant to see anyone from any ministry.
It would encourage the Government to take the direct link between treatment of
staff and thebottom line more seriously.
The third factor prodding the Government towards sponsoring an improved
employment culture is coming out of the DTI itself.
The ministry is searching for a wider role for the Partnership Fund. Instead
of making companies and unions jump through hoops to win a £50,000 partnership
support grant, it is going to use the joint work done by the CBI and the TUC –
in linking partnership working methods to productivity – and disseminate best
practice on the matter. Trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt has
committed £20m over the next two years to this.
So something is stirring in the Whitehall undergrowth. The challenge to
business and unions is: can we respond to this and change the bad work habits
of a lifetime?
By John Lloyd, National officer, Amicus