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A comparative analysis of evolution of the social consequences of lean production in the international automotive industry in Britain and Poland : 2001 – 2013

Stewart, Paul and Danford, A. and Mrozowicki, Adam and Murphy, Kenny (2013) A comparative analysis of evolution of the social consequences of lean production in the international automotive industry in Britain and Poland : 2001 – 2013. In: Work, Employment and Society 2013, 2013-09-03 - 2013-09-05. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

In this paper we report on initial findings of research conducted at General Motors UK and Poland; BMW-UK; VW Motor Poland. Making use of both quantitative survey data and qualitative interviews with employees and union officials, we discuss the development of a range of managerial practices at the workplace level in Poland and the UK often described as lean production techniques. We examine these with respect to their impact on employees' perceptions of the quality of work-life-home-life. While advocates of lean have argued consistently that with the right management cadre in the right place, the positive effects of lean for both employers and employees will prevail, evidence demonstrating higher levels of employee satisfaction in lean regimes is scant. This is not surprising for at least two reasons. In contrast to the ideology of lean, the impact of systems so defined is deleterious to the quality of life at work and to worker health more widely defined including life beyond employment. Furthermore, there is some evidence that the impact lean may be impacting negatively on worker decisions to take early retirement or to exit the sector. While there are variations within and between the plants in our study, nevertheless, the data highlights the growing disjuncture between claims and evidence both in the UK plants in which the lean production system was introduced in the late 1990s, and in the Polish greenfield plants build upon the assumptions of lean since their beginning.