Letter: Productivity divide at the heart of Britain's woes

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The Independent Online
Sir: The lengthy dispute between Railtrack and the signalman's union seems destined never to be able to reach an agreement. Instead it is showing symptoms of a potentially catastrophic ending ('Railtrack plans direct offer to strikers', 17 July). Signal workers are fighting for better wages in relation to changes in their working conditions following the drastic 13 per cent cut in personnel implemented by management.

While management is only prepared to offer about a 3 per cent increase on the signalmen's pounds 160- a-week salary, the president of British Rail has recently received a 12.6 per cent increase on his annual salary, which is in excess of pounds 300,000. Is he really worth more than 30 signal workers? On the other hand, Whitehall is planning to create 3,500 senior civil servants at the expense of 50,000 staff ('50,000 jobs to go in Whitehall reforms', 14 July). Why create another layer of middle management with one hand, when with the other you are discarding workers?

In Britain today, with its slow- growth economy, social inequality between workers and top management is continuing to increase in the name of 'rationalisation' and 'improved productivity'. As a foreigner, I am amazed that you allow such a division to persist.

Now that 'privatisation' and 'working practice reforms' are proclaimed by management to be inevitable and necessary, when the music stops the only seats left in this economic game of musical chairs will be occupied by those who have pushed others out - not for the cause of increased productivity but for self-interest.

The game of musical chairs is not productive, it will not benefit anyone in the long run. Isn't it time the game was changed for the good of the whole economy?

Yours sincerely,


London, EC2

18 July