Japanese management 'exploiting workers'

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Indy Politics
JAPANESE management techniques exploit and regiment British workers, yet give them a greater capacity for disrupting production.

The conclusion is drawn after an investigation of foreign-owned firms which practise the so-called 'Total Quality Management' and 'Just-In-Time' procedures.

Total Quality Management, which is meant to 'empower' workers to police their own performance, really means 'total management control', according to a paper, Pushing Back the Frontiers.

However, the Just-In-Time production system, under which stocks are kept to a minimum, will result in instant disruption if employees go on strike, say the authors, Rick Delbridge, Peter Turnbull and Barry Wilkinson, of Cardiff Business School.

Such production lines often have lights which show amber if workers cannot keep up the pace. One manager said that he liked to see the lights because 'it means we are really busting ass'.

In one plant individual performance charts are on display.

However, while the Just-In- Time approach has more potential for disruption, any propensity for militancy has lain dormant so far because 'workers are preoccupied with surviving the system'.

Pushing back the frontiers: management control and work intensification under JIT/TQM factory regimes; to be published in New Technology, Work and Employment; autumn 1992 (Vol 7 No 2); from Blackwell Publishers.