Monday, May 16, 2011

The labour process is a vital arena if the promises of organizational and workplace

The labour process is a vital arena if the promises of organizational and workplace transformation in an “a new economy” are to be fulfilled. Discuss the problems and contradictions associated with creating flexible labour processes in Post-Fordist Organization

In this age of severe job insecurity employers have devised ways to circumvent the state laws and regulations that govern Post Fordist organisations in the bid to extract more profits. The emergency of the new economy, based on information technologies which aim at decentralizing management, individualizing work and customizing markets have resulted in labour flexibility as metaphor of industrialized economies. This essay will discuss the problems and contradictions with creating flexible labour processes in Post Fordist Organisations.

According to Thomas and Hugh (2009; 203) flexible labour processes in Post-Fordist Organisations emanated from work rules that were embodied in contractual relations, rights and grievance procedures which gave unions high bargaining power, as well employment protection that states provided through legislation which limited the employers the power to adapt to the mechanisms of supply and demand. To enhance flexibility Post Fordist Organisations according to Horwitz and Eskine (1995;290) promoted multi-skilling, job rotation and different forms of team work to structure the work place to all the employee participation, work time flexibility also been the patterns of working time through continuous shifts systems. Two types of labour market processes are practiced by Post Fordist Organizations Thomas and Hugh (2009; 204) retaliates that capital oriented flexibility as a labour process flexibility geared towards the needs of employers and compel labour to adopt largely involuntary ways. Employment for part time and other categories is insecure, non standard work such as self employment increases and the role of the state is minimal or confined largely to providing legislation conducive to the powers of employers to hire and fire as the sole want.

The other labour market flexibility process is the negotiated flexibility (Thomas and Hugh 2009:204) characterised as a process that is subject to co-odinated or central bargaining between the major economic actors while non standard forms of employment can increase flexibility has defined limits and allows for better working life. Non permanent contracts, agency work, self employment non standardized work has been are the major characteristics of flexible labour processes these have resulted in major criticism by creating spheres of unemployment, exploitation and a decrease in the labour absorption rates. According to Rogers (2007;4) the growth of global production systems is probably the most significant factor here, introducing flexibility and adaptation through new sourcing arrangements which by-pass national policies.
Wage flexibility in this era of free market economies has also been enhanced Horwitz and Eskine (1995;290) elaborates that wages have shifted from uniform pay systems to performance based pay either or an individual team, the most detrimental labour market flexibility that has been the sole result for unemployment and social degradation is numerical flexibility which allows the owners of capital to reduce the size of the labour force to the laws of supply and demand this has resulted in subcontracting of labour, outsourcing, the use of casual or seasonal labour and homework .Numerical flexibility promotes employers to easily retrench and dismiss the work without any state or union involvement. Mantashe (2005;4) points out that permanent jobs have been replaced by flexible jobs that lack a standard employment relationship.

New forms of flexible manufacturing systems in Post Ford Organisation such as TQM (Total Quality Management) and JIT (Just In Time method) have resulted in functional flexibility according to Thomas and Hugh (2009; 219) functional flexibility is assumed to lead to higher levels of skilled labour by removing barriers between grades and categories. However Thomas and Hugh (2009; 219) propounds that the capacity to rotate workers across different tasks is normally predicated on their prior fragmentation, rather than combining them into something holistic. The other detrimental effects of flexibility means fewer rules and less bureaucracy as well according to Thomas and Hugh (2009; 220) the multi-skilling at the heart of functional flexibility represents a modest enlargement of the range of tasks required rather than and more fundamental change in the direction of skill enhancement.

Thomas and Hugh (2009; 205) retaliates that high contestation of labour flexibility causes uncertainty in the job market, job security has been eroded, the impact of flexibility were populated by negative accounts of re-hiring redundant workers under subcontractors with significant loss to pay, benefits and health and safety protection. Most of the Post Fordist organisations willingly practice deliberate measures to erode employment security and increase the number of workers on non-standard contracts in order to adapt to the mechanisms of supply and demand that consistently change to consumer preferences hence are paramount in determination of profits. Home working and Teleworking has become a major characteristic of the post fordist organisation with an increasing amount of part time work driven by female preferences according to Thomas and Hugh (2009; 2010) flexibility analyses tend to set aside the issue of gender and ethnicity by recasting dual labour markets as benign, progressive of invertible.

The major contradiction is the that labour flexibility itself create employment according to Rodgers (2007;3) employment protection does not clearly lead to higher unemployment, although it was found to be associated with lower employment rates hence enhancing labour flexibility will result in high employment rates even though the employment is not secure or permanent protection reduces inflows to employment of labour market entrants. According to Benjamin (2005;21) though externalisation flexibility which includes subcontracting, putting out work, use of self employed, buying instead of making components, on-site use of independent contractors or of employees “on loan” from other firms job creation is actually created for different sectors of the economy however this contradiction can justify that flexible labour markets help to keep wages close to the equilibrium and therefore avoid creating unemployment.

Despite the negative consequences of labour market flexibility post Fordist organizations attain benefits as the investment portfolio increases as well as reduction of production costs. While on part of the workforce increases labour participation rates is enhanced because it gives them more options of, when and where to work according to Thomas and Hugh with occupational changes characterised by portfolio workers and knowledge removes autonomy of the organisation on the employees hence numerical flexibility outsourcing and home working is less than a management strategy but more of individual cashing their knowledge and the dependency of the organisation upon it (2009; 2011). However, although flexible labour markets have created work in the part-time, service sector, there has been less success in creating permanent, full time jobs

The employer in this discourse of implementation labour flexibility process will benefit more from this setting while the employees suffer intensively due to lack of uncertainty and job insecurity in the Post Fordist Organisation. However due to the changing global markets labour flexibility has been adopted by most organisations to have a comparative advantage in profit making. Although ILO (International Labour Organisation) advocates for protective flexibility, the result have been detrimental as most of the employers resort to exploitative methods of labour flexibility hence the implication of creating labour flexibility in post Ford Organisations has created spheres of worker exploitation, unemployment and job insecurity.

Benjamin, P., (2005), "A Review of Labour Markets in South Africa: Labour Market Regulation: International and South African Perspectives," HSRC, Sida PDF document
Horwitz 1995 Flexible work practices in South Africa; economic, labour and regulatory considerations Industrial Relations Journal 26(4) 257-66
Rodgers, G., (2007) “Labour Market Flexibility and Decent Work”, DESA Working Paper No. 47, International Institute for Labour Studies PDF document
Mantashe, G. 2005. Labour market flexibility: Will the social impact help? Paper presented at Harold Wolpe memorial seminar, 5 October 2008 [Online]. Available: [2008, 2 February].

Thompson, P. and McHugh, D. (2009) “Organisations: a critical approach”, London, Palgrave Macmillan.