Mind you own business

'Mind your own Business: Economics at Work" by Jacobson, McDonough and Warnock

You can have ESOP; ESOT; improshare; Kiazan; KPI's; JIT; WCM; TQM; TPM, a whole plethora of bewildering terms. It is high time somebody published a handbook to help workers wade through all the whole lot. And SIPTU (the union that likes to say yes) has done just that. The book is surprisingly objective. Honest in showing us how badly we are doing under the Tiger economy.

It is well indexed and has a glossary of partnership terms at the back. Each section is self-contained, well presented with graphs, charts and cartoons. Simply look up the subject of immediate interest and be fully informed without having to wade through any abstract theory or doublespeak.

Workers today face a sustained barrage of economic arguments and terminology which goes way beyond the old 'industry-speak' language of classical collective bargaining. Our bosses speak constantly of partnership and want to set up participation councils. If we look at what is actually happening it is not partnership at all. It is really just 'partnerspeak' the current language of power.

Partnerspeak allows the bosses to befuddle workers everywhere, throwing a veil of terminology over every nefarious activity the bosses pursue - i.e. 'flexibility', when expendable is what they really mean. In the computer industry workers hear all about 'flexibility'. 2-3 years in one employment, training for this and that, 'multi-skilling' it's called. Then laid off and into another computer firm.

If the worker is open to re-training they will spend up to 30 years training and re-training. Learning processes which become immediately obsolete. At the age of 50, with no history of secure employment, no early retirement pension plan, they find themselves on the slagheap - surplus to requirements. In another 25 years time Ireland could be awash with the mostly highly trained but unemployed 50 something's ever.

Our bosses speak of 'stakeholding'. But the only real stake workers have is the body of experiences gained over time of the work process where they are employed. An experienced workforce can use their body of knowledge to exert leverage, as a union, to secure better wages, pensions and conditions.

One wonders why workers bother with 'partnerspeak' at all. They speak of communication, involvement, feedback, etc, while there manifestly is no such thing. All the bosses want is for you the workers to hand up all your knowledge and experience and make yourself expendable - sorry make yourself 'flexible'.

The substance of partnership is to "manage by stress" - more 'micro-managers (facilitators); more supervisors (team leaders); more pressure to perform (support).

You can have "gain sharing" which is basically a productivity deal in which the boss abandons any responsibility to guarantee your job or earnings.

Published by Oak Press order, buy, borrow or steal "Mind your own business" then pass it on to fellow workers. Probably the most user friendly handbook on economics/industrial relations in print.

Liam Griffin

This page is from the print version of the Irish Anarchist paper '
Workers Solidarity'. We also provide a PDF file of the latest edition (with pictures) for you to print out and distribute locally

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This edition is No65 published in July 2001