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Nothing gets done and no one knows why : PCS and workplace control of lean in HM Revenue and Customs

Carter, Bob and Danford, Andy and Howcroft, Debra and Richardson, Helen and Smith, Andrew and Taylor, Philip (2012) Nothing gets done and no one knows why : PCS and workplace control of lean in HM Revenue and Customs. Industrial Relations Journal, 43 (5). pp. 416-432. ISSN 0019-8692

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Abstract

This article examines the willingness and capacity of public sector unions to mobilise action against changes in the labour process in order to maintain some measure of control at the point of production. Taking as an instance an extended dispute in Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs over the introduction and impact of Lean processes, it marshals evidence gathered from documentary sources, branch representatives and national lay full-time officers to engage with the notion of a trade union bureaucracy. In taking a union with a left-wing leadership and a section with 80 per cent membership with an expressed willingness to escalate industrial action, the article tests Hyman's 1979 contention that, rather than a concentration on a bureaucratic caste, a much better explanation for conservatism centres on the nature of social relations within the union that encompass a wider layer of representatives.