A central feature in practically all productivity deals is the increasing flexibility in the use of labour.
The original ICI productivity deal (Manpower Utilisation and Payment Structure) states:
(a) Production operators with suitable training can use tools to carry out the less skilled craft tasks which form only a subsidiary part of their work.
(b) In appropriate circumstances tradesmen will be expected to operate plant.
(c) Tradesmen and general workers can be given general supervision by men of any background.
(d) Tradesmen can do work of other trades which forms a subsidiary part of the main job of their own trade, according to their availability at the time.
(e) Support work for tradesmen can be done by tradesmen, semi-skilled or general workers as is appropriate in the circumstances. 
This labour flexibility boils down to one worker having to do the job of two!
Similarly the draft productivity deal at Rootes, Coventry, says:
(a) All employees will, as far as is practicable, be interchangeable and mobile between jobs in the same or different departments at Coventry. Mobility of this type will not he restricted by demarcation issues.
(b) Employees will carry out as far as is practicable associated or ancillary work at present carried out by men of other trades, and/or by mates.
(c) Employees operating machines will carry out their own simple maintenance work, e.g. tool changing.
(d) Where necessary and practicable, in a limited number of production operations, work normally carried out by males will be reclassified as female occupations, so long as this does not adversely affect the security of employment of existing employees. 
In the docks labour flexibility has been the main ingredient of the productivity agreement:
(b) At any time during an operation men may be transferred temporarily to meet more urgent requirements or when work on the initial operation cannot be continued (shiphands transferring to other ship work and quayhands to other quay work).
(c) Men working on non-continuity work shall be regarded as fully mobile between job and job, and may be transferred to continuity work during a working period. 
Up to now, however, these articles have been largely dead letters. Since the eight-week continuity strike in October and November 1967 the employers have rarely, if ever, tried to impose the above clauses.
The idea of flexibility is also to be seen in the steel industry’s Green Book  – where it is announced in a much more brutal and extreme fashion. The language here is not that of negotiation between two parties who are at least formally equal – employer and employee – but is the language of a master to his servant:
Mobility and interchangeability
(i) Maintenance of plant and equipment will be undertaken by all employees according to the skills required and the competence of the individual.
(ii) There will be complete mobility and interchangeability between all craftsmen throughout the division. There will also be complete interchangeability and mobility between all non-craft maintenance employees throughout the division.
(iii) Craftsmen and non-craft maintenance employees can be called upon to work in any department within Margam & Abbey works to meet any eventuality as required ...
(iv) It is the intention of the division to set up mobile task forces. These mobile task forces will work on either day or shifts on or off the division’s premises as required. Their deployment will be decided by the management both as to numbers and grades of craftsmen and maintenance employees ...
(vi) Craftsmen and maintenance employees will work as required, either on their own, in pairs, or groups and will be responsible for their own slinging and rigging, the operation of jib and pendant control cranes, and the erection of scaffolding.
(i) The management can make the fullest use of the skills of all craftsmen and maintenance employees anywhere on or off the division’s premises. Management will be free to decide which type of skilled, semi-skilled or unskilled employee will carry out a task in part or whole. This may be varied as conditions require from day to day.
Working with or without assistance
(i) All craftsmen will work with or without assistance as required. This means that craftsmen will do without assistance as long as it is within his physical capacity to do so.
(ii) Assistance will be given by any other employee as required.
Movement and use of employees
(i) There will be no restriction on the movement and use of employees either by department, section or works. All employees will be available for work anywhere on or off the division’s premises. The division would be able to deploy employees to meet any need of service to the other works in the division.
(ii) All employees will be requested to mutually assist each other as required in order to ensure efficient operation, safety and maintenance of plant and equipment and to cooperate fully in any emergency that may arise.
(iii) Members of production and maintenance groups can be moved from unit to unit for a whole or part shift as directed to meet prevailing circumstances.
(iv) Management will deploy individual employees in any manner they consider will be efficient. Existing arrangements or agreements whereby employees may claim specific jobs or type of jobs under rota or such systems will be cancelled. Agreements and rotas giving any automatic movement from one department to another will cease.
Mobility and flexibility
All employees to be freely available to undertake any work within their existing or lower job grade and within a higher job grade subject to the limitations of their competence, i.e. disregarding all existing demarcations.
The term “freely available” means capable of being deployed with full mobility anywhere on or off the division’s premises.
Skilled workers must do any job they are told to, not only in their own trade, but in any trade. They even have to do the job of sweeping and cleaning – and all this in exchange for the wages of only one person:
(i) Keeping the work area clean and tidy shall be the responsibility of the employees normally working there. They will use what means are necessary to do this. There shall be no division of cleaning and cleaning responsibilities, and anyone required to do this will do so. 
And where do we have to go to get fitted with the ball and chain?
Although the worker has to accept the most complete flexibility he gets no guarantee against loss of earning when transferred from one job to another:
(i) If, for any reason, a worker is required to move from his normal occupation to another which is not in the same promotion line, he shall be deemed to have been redeployed and, subject to payment for the period specified in 4(c)(ii) below, he shall be paid the rate of the job to which he has been redeployed. 
After a year he gets nothing. The result of these clauses is to remove from the worker all security as regards both his job and his earnings.
In the case of the railway workshops the worker is not even entitled to a higher rate when moved to a higher trade: “When staff are employed for up to 25 percent of their time on higher category work, the lower rate will apply throughout”. 
This means management can man one job by a roster of four men, each doing 25 percent of the job, and only pay the cheap rate for it.
The proposed productivity deal of Pressed Steel Fisher Ltd, Common Lane, includes the following:
Supervision will decide upon those employees to be retained within the group/section/department and those to be released to the labour pool – a basis for selection will be attendance and general disciplinary record.
Labour pool employees, who will be supervised as a separate section, will be expected to fulfil tasks as directed by management. Selection of employees from the pool for specific tasks will be at the discretion of the supervisor.
During the first four weeks [workers at the pool] will receive the rate for the job from which they were released to the pool.
The skilled pool will receive not less than the grade rate for Grade V [lowest skilled grade]. The other pool [of semi-skilled and unskilled workers] will receive Grade I rate [lowest, unskilled rate]. 
One advantage that flexibility of labour deployment gives to the employer is, of course, the complete elimination of some jobs. Flexibility makes it much easier for an employer to intensify work by using “natural wastage” to run down the integrated labour force. However, in the long run there is an even more important gain for the boss. Such flexibility enables him to split up shop organisation by constantly moving workers from one shop to another. This measure can be wielded particularly against militants specially, and can thus strengthen managerial control. As Jim Nichol, an AEF steward in Linwood, put it:
I’ll tell you what flexibility means ... If you work with a group of men for some time, then maybe you’ll form a militant block – begin to make demands which are taken up by other groups and so on.
“Flexibility” means that on the advice of a so-called expert, the management can move men all over the shop and the factory. Very quickly the most militant sections get broken up. It’s happening already, every day. 
A steward in Ryton’s Rootes factory wrote to me:
It is six months since the productivity deal has been signed. As a result of arbitrary transfers, shop organisation is being undermined. Three weeks after a steward has been removed from the shop he automatically loses his credentials.
One element common to many productivity deals is the introduction or expansion of shift working and the development of more onerous rostering systems. The last few years have seen a tremendous expansion of shift working.
In 1967 the then minister of labour, Ray Gunter, stated, “The number of manual workers engaged on shift work has grown by more than half during the last decade”. 
Since then shift working has very much expanded again. Not only does shift work spread hand in hand with productivity deals, but the shifts become burdened with a far more onerous rostering system.
This is written into the agreement for the railway workshops:
Revision of rostering arrangements in order to produce a more effective balance between the availability of labour and the demand for it.
Under present arrangements rosters can be agreed locally in which Saturday forms part of the guaranteed week. It is now agreed, in principle, that Sunday can also, in certain circumstances, be rostered within the guaranteed week subject to local agreement. 
When it comes to steel workers, the management does not bother about niceties:
Day and shift working
All employees will work on days or shifts for short or long periods as required. It is the intention of management to work with a minimum of day and shift manning and also to work light on days or shifts as circumstances warrant. Any day employee asked to cover a shift vacancy or work with a shift employee during part of his day will do so as part of his normal day hours. Any loss in earnings resulting from moving from shifts to days is dealt with in Appendix B.
Changing of work rota
(i) Management will decide the number of shifts to be manned on any unit of plant in the light of prevailing circumstances. 
Probably the worst conditions were dictated to the power supply workers:
Four main types of stagger patterns were provided: staggered days, staggered hours, winter/summer stagger and workload stagger. Each had its advantages to the boards in different conditions. 
Maintenance men in power stations would work what we call a seven-day stagger; they would work five days in seven, but the five days in the first week would be different from the five days in the second week, and so on, so that you go five days round and a man is hitting a Saturday and hitting a Sunday on a regular rota, but these become a normal part of his duty in his service with us. He is not there on a Saturday or Sunday doing voluntary overtime, he is there doing part of his normal job. 
The hours of work were also staggered. In the area boards:
... the commonest patterns here are those involving staggered hours, which allow for the day to start as early as 6 a.m. or, with a much later start, finish as late as 8 p.m. and, though usually involving five working days, permit four days of ten hours each to be worked. But patterns spreading five working days over five and a half or six days are also used quite frequently. In the power stations staggered hours are also used to some extent, but the vast majority of power station day-workers now work a five-day week spread over seven days, which closely corresponds with the demands of modern plant that must be continuously manned, and as far as possible serviced and overhauled at off-peak periods. 
The most fantastic stagger is the winter/summer one. This allows management to cut the working week by as much as five hours a week in winter and “transfer” the time to the summer period, without paying a penny for overtime.
In some cases the term productivity effort is being used simply to cover up for a long – very long – work period. MDW, flexibility, work study, etc could not be applied to the fire service – so what alternative is there for productivity-mongering but to press for a very extended duty period? The ultimate form of this is day manning. This is the system many fire authorities are pressing to introduce wherever possible. The idea is that men live in tied houses adjacent to the fire stations, usually at a cheap rent. While the basic working week of a fireman is 46 hours. with another ten hours, usually of overtime, the fireman on day manning is on call 120 hours a week. If there is a temporary shortage of men, a fireman on day manning is expected to cover the whole 168 hours of a week. He is paid the same rate as all firemen for 56 hours, which are apportioned to that part of the day when most fire calls are received. For the other 64 to 112 hours a week, during which the day-man is on “retained obligation”, he gets an annual sum of £65, plus extra every time he attends a fire call.
If they are needed for a fire they are called in from home by a siren before 11 p.m., or between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. by bells in the house – one in the bedroom and one downstairs The firemen have the absolute right to two periods of 24 hours off per week. Apart from that 48 hours they are obliged to go into the fire station every time the fire bell or siren sounds.
The system makes numerous encroachments into both the independence and privacy of the “victim” and his family. For instance, the entire household may be woken when the bell sounds in the small hours – not a pleasant situation and particularly annoying when there is sickness in the home. Should a man want to take his family out at the weekend he would not be able to – he must wait at home in case the siren sounds. A member cannot venture more than a few minutes from the fire station, except on rota days, and even rota days can be in jeopardy on some occasions.
A militant fireman wrote to me:
A good example of the all-embracing nature of the system occurred in Hertfordshire. Shortly after a fireman moved into his house at the day manning station, a social evening was arranged at the fire station. Our member chose not to go. The next day the officer in charge of the station called the man into his office and demanded to know why he had not attended the social the night before. The fireman explained that he had decided not to go, and that was all there was to it. The officer, however, had other ideas, and informed our member that since the social had taken place during his period of “close availability” he had no option but to attend. Our member was also told that he was expected to join in the social life of the station ... It is a good illustration of the attitude adopted by the employers once they get as much of the system as they want.
To the fire authorities day manning is a financial windfall. The savings to the employers arising can be illustrated by comparing costs at Clacton fire station, where at this time Essex County Council is trying to change over to day manning from the two-shift system.
The two-shift system requires 45 men, working a 56-hour week. In wages alone this would cost £61,195 approximately. On day manning 21 men would be needed to cover the week. They are paid the same as the two-shift men for the 56 hours per week. For the hours over that they would be “retained” and receive an annual retaining fee of £65 plus hourly rates for each fire they attend – for the first hour of every fire they get 23s, and 9s per hour thereafter. This would bring the wage bill to approximately £30,615. In addition to this there is the initial expenditure of building the houses around the fire station, and then letting them to the fireman occupants at a “cheap” rent – £90 per annum in Essex.
If one examines the situation more closely, the county council would save National Insurance, superannuating, uniforms and training. The station would be unoccupied for most of the time, and this would save heating, etc. The county council estimated, in 1969, a net saving of £27,000 if the system were introduced at Clacton. No wonder the PIB is in favour of day manning, stating, “We recommend that the Fire Brigades Union should discuss with the employers the conditions under which an extension of the day manning system on a voluntary basis could be made more generally acceptable”. 
The fire authorities achieving a 24-hour day, five to seven day week work period must surely serve as a shining example to other employers!
There has always been some night work in society. Some groups of workers, specially in the service industries, are forced by the very nature of the job to work awkward hours – firemen, transport workers, postmen, etc. However, most industries that have adopted shift working have not done it in order to provide a public service but simply to increase profits. Factory owners, quite early on, recognised that by keeping machinery working round the clock their profits would rise. Today the pressure for continuous shift working comes strongest from those employers who operate the most expensive machinery. It is these employers who see a productivity deal as the simplest way of introducing shift working and are quite often willing to pay relatively high sums for the privilege. Whether these improved wages can ever compensate workers for the disadvantages of shift working we must see.
All the evidence points to the fact that shift work has a debilitating effect on man – physically, psychologically and socially. A number of studies have been made on the question. One of these:
... found that day workers get an average of seven and a half hours sleep per night, which is an hour more than the overall average of rotating shift workers. But when they are working the night segment of their shift, rotating workers average only five and a half hours of sleep. The biggest problem for rotating shift workers occurs when they move from their turn on the day shift to the night shift.
The same study:
... reports that only 37 percent of the workers adjust to the new sleeping times immediately, while 28 percent of the workers said that they took four days or more to adjust to the night shift ... Another study of operators in two different power plants in the United States found that only 31 percent of the men working under an extended seven-day week rotation reported that they adjusted to their hardest shift change within a day or less. Even fewer, just 5 percent of the men working a monthly rotation schedule, stated they could adjust to their hardest shift change in one day. Under the latter schedule, 70 percent reported that their adjustment to the new schedule took four days or more. 
The quality of sleep is also affected. The study:
... reported that even the sleep that these workers get is not so refreshing as sleeping at the normal time. Eighty three percent of the rotators said that they felt most fatigued on the night shift, and only 9 percent felt fatigued most frequently on the day shift. 
Other physical processes besides sleep are adversely affected. For a start there is appetite. Thus the study:
... found that 20 percent of the shift workers interviewed complained that shift work affected their eating habits adversely. Wyatt and Marriott (1953) report that 74 percent of their respondents enjoyed eating most on the day shift. Only 3 percent of their sample said that they enjoyed their food most on the night shift. 
A higher proportion of night and rotating shift workers reported that they were fatigued much of the time, that their appetites were dulled, and that they were constipated much of the time. 
We also found that the prevalence of ulcers and rheumatoid arthritis was higher among workers who had relatively more difficulty adjusting their rhythmic functions. 
All studies into the subject agree that the weekly rotating shift system was even worse for the wellbeing of workers than the fixed-shift system:
It was found that the higher the level of complaints, the more frequent and severe were upper respiratory infections and headaches. The prevalence of soaking sweats while sleeping, asthma and rectal diseases were also found to be higher among the high complaint group and among the rotators who adjust their time-oriented body functions less readily. Thus the higher the level of complaints about rhythmic functioning or the slower rate of adjustment of these functions, the poorer the health of the worker. 
Another study “done among German workers showed that the ulcer rate was eight times as high for the rotating shift workers as for the fixed shift group”. 
The psychological impact of shift working is probably more serious than the physical effects. One of the most common spontaneous complaints about shift work is that it interferes with family life. A study on German workers, for instance, showed that “74 percent of the married men and 45 percent of the single men who followed a shift schedule which included night work complained of disturbances in family life”. 
The most frequently mentioned difficulties in husband-wife relationships concern the absence of the worker from the home in the evening, sexual relations, and difficulties encountered by the wife in carrying out her household duties ...
Another area of family life that seems to be adversely affected by certain kinds of shift work is the father-child relationship. 
As one shift worker put it to me, “The only thing that has saved my marriage is an electric blanket!”
Many workers expected that after a time they will become adjusted to shift work. But research has shown this not to be the case:
We had expected that, with the passage of time, the worker would become accustomed to his shift. It was most interesting to us that this was not the case. Regardless of his age or length of service on his shift he could still have difficulty adjusting his time-oriented body functions to his shift. 
From the employers’ point of view “shift working” is not a difficult question. If it increases profits then it is to be welcomed. After all, very few company directors work a night shift – at least not one they get paid for. For us as trade unionists and socialists the question is far more difficult. It is difficult to oppose all shift working in principle as we would have to do without buses, telephones, electricity, etc. In a socialist society we would probably decide whether to work shifts on the merits of the case – by balancing the disadvantages to the worker against the benefits to the community of the article being produced. If it’s houses to solve a serious housing problem then we might say yes. If it were colour TV sets the answer should be no. In industry today we can use no such yardstick, for the simple reason that the product belongs to the employer and not to the community. A better bet is to say that we will resist the extension of shift working wherever we can. We don’t consider that our health, our families and our sanity can be sold for any price.
A favourite argument to justify shift working is that “our competitors abroad operate their plant round the clock and so we can’t possibly keep in the market if we don’t follow suit”, the inference being that you have a choice – shift work or the sack. Of course, we can turn that argument on its head: “If we don’t accept shift working then there will be no reason why our fellow workers in other countries should have to go on putting up with it.”
Basically the spread of shift work clearly shows up capitalist priorities: property versus man. One writer makes a remarkable assessment of the priorities:
A rapid shift is taking place from the human being to the machine ... No longer is the producer a man serviced by machines but a machine serviced by men. For the possibilities of this new situation to be realised a change is required in the work culture from a man-centred to a machine-centred attitude – a machine culture. 
This is very crucial to productivity deals. The Green Book for the steel industry states, “Set tea breaks will not be allowed anywhere on the plant, but tea may be drunk provided the programme of work is not interrupted”. 
On meal breaks, the Green Book says:
The division is seriously concerned with the amount of time lost as a result of meal breaks being extended beyond the time laid down in agreements. It wants the 30-minute maximum time, including reaching the mess, washing, eating, cleaning utensils and returning to the place of work, strictly observed.
In Ford’s no tea break is allowed to manual workers, and the same goes in a recent productivity agreement for the white collar workers. 
At the Rootes factory in Linwood workers are entitled to two ten-minute tea breaks, and 15 minutes daily relief. But as one Linwood worker writes:
Even these 15 minutes are not assured. If the relief man on your section is away, or has to stand in for someone else who’s off work, or for someone who has an accident, you just don’t get a relief that day. Theoretically, each section is supposed to have permanent “stand in” men attached to them as well as “relief” men, but I’ve not come across any as yet.
Prior to the productivity deal of 1968, the line used to stop seven minutes before 4.30 p.m. for “cleaning up”. Since the agreement, workers have to work until the bell rings. The principle is “bell to bell working”. If a worker were found leaving his place of work before normal stopping time, the following action would be taken:
On the first occasion, a final warning. On the second occasion, three days suspension. On the third occasion, immediate dismissal. 
Some 100 years ago Marx wrote:
These “small thefts” of capital from the labourer’s meal and recreation time, the factory inspectors also designate as “petty pilfering of minutes”, “snatching a few minutes”, or, as the labourers technically called them, “nibbling and cribbing at mealtimes”.
“If you allow me”, said a highly respectable master to me, “to work only ten minutes in the day overtime, you put a thousand a year in my pocket. Moments are the elements of profit”. 
The vital importance of this issue of tea breaks was very well put by one engineering militant:
Tea breaks are necessary, not just as a physical break from work but as a constant demonstration to the bosses that the workers cannot be completely dominated by the production line and the bosses’ god of productivity. If you can stop the production line for a cup of tea you can equally well stop it to support your steward.
You can’t have effective shop stewards if the workers are unable to escape the complete domination of the production line and to realise that they are a collective, even if it is only round a tea trolley for ten minutes. 
Tea breaks allow informal shopfloor meetings, contacts with stewards, etc. Tea breaks are the foundation of shopfloor democracy.
If any confirmation was needed that the “small” issue of tea break or meal times can have a central and crucial place in workers’ feelings, the recent mass miners’ strike provided it. Some 160,000 miners went on strike – in the biggest strike since the General Strike of 1926, and the biggest unofficial strike ever – on the question of 20 minutes meal time for surface workers, a question that directly affected only about 10 percent of all miners.
However, whatever the paper agreement regarding tea breaks and relief time, it is very much up to shop stewards and the workers themselves to bend the agreement. Thus a shop steward in one ICI factory writes:
Official dinner break is half an hour; actually anything up to two hours and certainly averaging 50 minutes we spend at dinner time ... stewards’ control over output is such that “the daily stint” can be easily finished an hour before knock-off. 
Again, a worker in the Dagenham Ford foundry writes to me:
Officially relief time in the foundry is 4 percent. In any top level argument one is told 20 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon. In practice it varies from department to department, and in the department from job to job. The foundry management is much more complaisant as regards relief than any other plant. On jobs that are either very noisy or very hot and smoky, men work half an hour on, half an hour off, or 50 percent relief. This is to try to ameliorate bad working conditions. On certain other jobs, for instance, instead of two men each loading three cores, one man loads six and they work half an hour about. Most men get one and a quarter out of nine anyway. These are moulding and hot metal conditions. In the core shop and fettling shop men usually get two half-hours and a quarter of an hour. This is usual but unofficial.
One item that appears time and again in productivity deals is the elimination of restrictive practices.
The provincial and municipal bus employers in their evidence to the PIB list the following as restrictive practices:
Restriction on the length of duties.
Restrictions on the number of split duties.
Refusal to accept flexibility of drivers working as conductors.
Resistance to the employment of part time and seasonal staff.
Refusal to accept standing passengers.
Restrictions on the size of one-man buses ... etc. 
In its evidence to the court of inquiry chaired by Lord Cameron, the building contractor Bernard Sunley and Sons Limited:
... listed a large number of activities which it described as restrictive practices and which it claimed had taken place on the site. These included refusal by the stewards to accept non-unionists on the site, despite appropriate provision in the Site Procedure Agreement, or to permit the unloading of lorries driven by non-unionists, refusal to accept that management had to discharge operatives from time to time because of poor timekeeping or absenteeism, and attempts to undermine the authority of site supervision by demanding the removal of members of the site staff. 
Refusal to work with non-unionists is a “restrictive practice”!
A book written for managers goes so far as to give the following long list of possible restrictive practices:
(1) Timekeeping – late starting and early finishing.
(2) Carry-over of time booking.
(3) Unofficial stoppages for meeting purposes and meetings extended.
(4) Extension of official tea breaks.
(5) Stewards leaving shop without permission of foreman.
(6) Union restrictions resulting in lower labour intake than would otherwise be possible.
(7) Shop stewards required to approve overtime.
(8) Claim by employees that “one in, all in” on overtime.
(9) Reluctance to accept double and treble shift working.
(10) Resistance to changes in production methods that can reduce operational times.
(11) Resistance to changes to grade of labour for job, e.g. skilled to semi-skilled.
(12) Some unions demanding exclusive right to certain work in opposition to other unions.
(13) Resistance to transfer of labour from one type of machine to another which may have been necessitated by absenteeism.
(14) Objection by electricians to relatively simple connections being made by fitters, etc.
(15) Absenteeism after weekend working.
(16) Refusal to accept stopwatch in all departments.
(17) Interchange of labour between departments where there are related trades.
(18) Demand that certain jobs are the prerogative of certain shops in spite of inconvenience and change in technology.
(19) Refusal by certain shops to allow recruitment when they have a wage claim in.
(20) Refusal of employees to work with outside employees who are not union members.
(21) Refusal to cooperate with outside contractors unless they are in appropriate unions.
(22) Refusal to modify jigs and equipment that have been manufactured outside.
(23) Limitation on recruitment of apprentices.
Reluctance to accept double and treble shift working, refusal to work with non-unionists, refusal to change grades etc, are restrictive practices. 
There are various kinds of what are called “restrictive practices”. Many practices are an essential defence of jobs and conditions. Others are time-honoured but no longer of much relevance, and workers do not much mind selling them for a price. Yet others, e.g. many craft rules, erect barriers within the working class which are difficult for socialists to defend in any principled way.
When workers sell restrictive practices in one productivity deal they immediately try to create a new one. The bosses are not unaware of this. Take, for example, the following interchange between Lord Donovan and Sir Maurice Laing of the Confederation of British Industries:
Chairman: Let us suppose you buy off your restrictive practices either by national agreement or by plant agreement. I take it that the categories of restrictive practices are not closed, particularly with new processes coming along. Even if you buy some off, is there not a possibility of others taking their place? And if that is so, where do we end?
Sir Maurice Laing: The great difficulty I foresee is the one you foresee. This encourages the very extension of restrictive practices so that at a later date they can be bought off. 
The same question was referred to in a research paper of the Engineering Employers’ Federation:
Will the negotiation of a deal to buy out restrictive practices not lead to the creation of new ones?
It would be contrary to human nature to say that such a possibility is inconceivable. However, one of the major points of productivity bargaining is that it gives management a chance to regain control in a rational way. If management relaxes this new found control to permit the building up of new restrictive practices then it has certainly thrown away the opportunity which a successful bargain can confer. 
The key point is contained in the sentence emphasised. If management approaches the deal, as Flanders suggests, not with a shopping list of practices to buy, but with the aim of re-exerting positive control – and if it is successful – then it is very difficult to create new restrictions. Either the workers must obtain new strength or management relax its control.
For the capitalist, every custom or method of work which affects his profits in any way is a restrictive practice. Workers, of course, recognise that such “restrictive practices” are often essential defences of their wages and conditions, and even of their security in their jobs. Socialists have long pointed out the hypocrisy of such gentlemen as lawyers or company directors who criticise the “restrictive practices” of ordinary workers, when their own demarcation rules and time-wasting practices would put any trade unionist to shame. It is very important for militants to expose the ruling class ideology, which attacks workers’ protective practices as unjustified restrictions. At the same time, they must show the serious dangers often present when such practices are “sold” in a productivity deal.
It would be wrong, however, to make a fetish of every traditional practice employed by workers. Tradition is not in itself a guarantee of strategic importance. For this reason, a management invitation to “sell the rulebook” should not be opposed in the abstract – no rulebook is sacrosanct – but because the rules involved have some concrete value which workers can readily understand. There are rules and practices – though far fewer than the bosses and press lords would have us believe – which, though time-honoured, no longer serve any obvious purpose. When the productivity-mongers turn up practices which fall into this category, then there is no reason why they should not be regarded as saleable. Indeed, there is a lot to be said for keeping top management happy by inventing a few such practices specially for sale. On the other hand, the practices which companies are most anxious to buy out are usually those which are genuine defences. Restrictions on machine staffing or pace of work are physical safeguards for workers, and in addition often protect employment in trades or areas where this is particularly insecure. Output and earnings ceilings protect against rate-cutting, and also prevent jealousy and competition between workers. Restrictions on mobility prevent management from constantly moving and isolating militants, or breaking up sections with a reputation for collective action. Tea breaks, washing time, etc are times when workers can meet collectively to discuss problems with their stewards and with each other. They also represent an erosion of management control over the use of working hours.
Probably the most delicate type of practice on which to take a principled stand concerns so-called “craft restrictions”. One of the central elements of the Fawley deals was the reduction of intercraft demarcations, and the elimination of craftsmen’s mates. And the aim of greater “flexibility” of skilled labour is equally central in many other productivity packages. Socialists have long recognised the difficulty of formulating a policy towards craft practices in general. In essence, the institution of the craft sets a section of workers apart from all others, as an “aristocracy” with exclusive right to a narrowly-defined area of work, which must be jealously defended against the rest of the class. It cuts across the principle of class unity, sanctifying within the trade union movement the capitalist principle of division of labour. Clearly the objective for socialists should be the elimination of artificial barriers between different crafts and between craftsman and labourer, so that workers’ energies can be directed towards their common interests as a class.
But, equally clearly, this principle cannot be mechanically applied when the attempt to remove “craft restrictions” is made by employers as part of a productivity deal. Here the aim of management is to exploit sectional divisions among the labour force in order to intensify the pressure of work for one section, the craftsmen, and usually also to eliminate a substantial number of employees – as with the redundant labourers at Fawley. Here opposition to the employers’ attack on workers’ conditions must be unqualified. But such opposition must not take the form of unprincipled opportunism. Socialists must base their opposition firmly on class rather than craft arguments.  Workers’ resistance to management’s attack may be fatally weakened by a failure to transcend sectional jealousies and divisions. (Indeed, it should be an urgent priority for militants to combat such divisions before management attacks.)
To summarise, the following test should be applied whenever a company attempts to “buy out” what it considers a restrictive practice. Workers must ask themselves, does this practice help make conditions more bearable? Does it help maintain our earnings or make our employment more secure? Does it increase our strength of our organisation and add to our control on the shopfloor? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then naturally any concession would be dangerous, and the aim must be to see that every worker understands why. But if the practice serves no important defensive purpose, then there is no reason of principle to fight to retain it – though clearly workers will want to get the highest possible price for abandoning it.
Such a strategy naturally means that there can be no “blanket” sale of all workers’ traditional practices. Flanders, the PIB, etc advise managements that a productivity deal should eliminate all workers’ practices which are not specifically listed to be retained. This can well mean that workers recognise only afterwards that essential practices have been sold in the package – and it makes the invention of new restrictions far harder to get away with. Workers must clearly insist that the reverse principle should apply in any deal – nothing is sold unless specifically listed and paid for. Unless this basis is accepted, workers have a cast iron case for refusing to have anything to do with management’s “bargain”.
All productivity deals tighten labour discipline. Hence many of them include penalty clauses.
In the municipal bus industry which employs 77,000 people, an agreement has been reached between management and union officials that fines will be imposed on unofficial strikers. The penalty clause was this – a bonus of about £12 10s paid twice a year would be withheld from any busman involved in an unofficial action. The unions involved in this agreement were the TGWU, NUGMW, AEU, ETU, NUVB and NUR. 
And the NUGMW signed a closed shop agreement with Ilford Limited (at the time part-owned by ICI) that guarantees the company freedom from unofficial strikes and unofficial wage demands. The union will police the agreement, expelling any “troublemakers” from the union and the factory in one blow. The union will act as a foreman for llford Limited, helping with a drive for “greater productivity”. As the Guardian commented on this agreement, the result will be:
... a much more authoritarian industrial situation with the union wielding greater power over its members ... But the benefit to the individual production worker is less obvious. 
Similarly, the National Joint Council of the Building Industry, in a ten-point productivity deal, included the following:
(7) “Making entitlement to annual holiday credits dependent on completion of a normal week’s work.” So any time lost through lateness, sickness, wet time, etc. will lose that week’s annual holiday stamp.
(8) Introducing realistic penalties for operatives leaving service in breach of the Working Rule Agreement. Fines for throwing in your job.
(10) “Providing for the suspension of the weekly guarantee in the event of dislocation of production through industrial action on the site.” If anyone dares to oppose this slaves’ charter by a strike, go-slow or work to rule they will be subject to still more severe penalties. 
The suggested productivity deal for the exhibition workers, an agreement which was vetoed by the PIB, included an item that stated that for selling certain conditions every worker would get 10s a day wage rise. There was, however, a sting in the tail – for coming late or missing a day or for industrial misdemeanour the 10s bonus would be taken off. 
The productivity deal between Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Ltd and the trade unions guaranteed that there would be no redundancies before August 1970 for all workers with nine months’ continuous service. However, “any employee taking part in an unofficial strike would lose his guarantee until he had completed nine months’ continuous service following return to normal working, i.e. working under the conditions of this agreement”. 
Similarly the productivity deal between Swan Hunter and Tyne Shipbuilders Ltd and the Boilermakers’ Union states:
The company guarantees security of employment for two years to all employees covered by this agreement who, at the date of its implementation, have completed at least one year’s service with the company. This guarantee of employment will become invalid in the case of proven industrial misconduct by an individual or individuals or by unofficial industrial action against the company. 
The agreement goes on to state, “This guarantee does not in any way restrict the right of the company, after consultation with the society, to lay off employees in the event of shortage of materials or service resulting from causes outside the company.
Productivity agreements for electricians in the building industry went furthest of all:
(a) Any employer, participant or employee participant who, in the opinion of the National Board, has behaved in any manner contrary to Rules 13 or 14 or prejudicial to the interest of the Joint Industry Board, shall be liable, at the absolute discretion of the National Board, to the following penalties:
(i) A censure.
(ii) The forfeiture of all or any of the welfare benefits accrued or other benefits which such participation would or might otherwise be or become entitled to receive from the Joint Industry Board.
(iii) The suspension of such participant, for such period not exceeding three months for each separate offence, from all or any of the rights and privileges of membership of the Joint Industry Board, including the right to receive all or any of the welfare or other benefits which such participant might otherwise become entitled to receive from the Joint Industry Board during such period.
(iv) The payment to the Joint Industry Board of a fine, which shall not for any single offence exceed £1,000 in the case of an employer participant or £100 in the case of an employee participant.
(v) Expulsion from membership of the Joint Industry Board. 
In this case at least there is no doubt at all that the disciplinary measures of the ETU leadership, who supported the above agreement, were quite effective in cutting drastically strike actions. 
Number of strikes
No record kept
Probably the most famous of the penalty clauses associated with productivity deals, and which led to an extremely important strike, was that at Ford.
For layoff benefit the company would pay 4s per employee per week into a fund, but if there was an unconstitutional action in any plant all the workers would lose all the payment for six months. For the holiday fund the firm would pay 10s per worker per week – with a similar suspension, this time for 12 months, if any unconstitutional action took place in the plant.
Unconstitutional action was defined by the agreement in a very wide and encompassing way:
(1) Withdrawal of labour.
(2) Overtime bans.
(3) Concerted restrictions of work output, whether by quantity of work produced, quality of work produced or the range of work undertaken. 
However, as a result of a very militant and massive strike Ford management’s penalty clauses were smashed to pieces. The above clauses were changed radically.
The agreement was as follows. For layoff benefit the company would pay 4s per employee per week into a fund, but if there was unconstitutional action in any plant it would make no payments for that week.
For the holiday fund the firm would pay 10s per worker per week, with a similar suspension for weeks of unconstitutional action in any plant. A minimum payment of £15 would be made to all qualified workers. With no suspensions, the full payment would be nearly £25 (more if there was a surplus in the layoff fund), but above the £15 minimum any worker who indulged in unconstitutional action would have his bonus reduced (i.e. by 2/49 if he had been on strike in two weeks). This is a far cry indeed from disqualification for six or 12 months for any action. The penalties have been radically weakened. 
Following in Ford’s wake, Vauxhall tried in its productivity deal offer of April 1969 to get an almost completely free hand to discipline the workers:
The unions will not cause or permit their members to cause, nor will any member of the unions take part in any unauthorised work stoppage, slowdown or curtailment, restriction of or interference with production at Vauxhall plants.
The union will not cause or permit their members to cause, nor will any member of the unions take part in any strike or work stoppage until all the procedure as established by agreement has been exhausted.
The company reserves the right to discipline any employee taking part in any violation of this undertaking and will expect the union to review the conduct of any member in violation within rules and constitution and to support such action as may be necessary and appropriate. 
The port employers are also trying to tighten discipline. Up to now disciplining has been in the hands of the Dock Labour Board, made up of five employers and five union members.
In the absence of a majority decision it is difficult for the employers to impose penalties on the dockers. This became very clear early in 1969 when the employers attempted to suspend for up to five days several thousand dockers who went on unofficial strikes over a pay demand. The attempt failed. After this employers drew up proposals for changes in dock legislation which they intend to put to the government through their National Association of Port Employers. It could therefore apply to all ports in the country. In addition to the three-day unilateral suspension (which might be operated every time action was taken, or only once a year on each offender), the employers also want the appeal body for other disciplinary measures to be reconstituted – with one employer member, one from the unions and an “independent” chairman. They also want their agreement with the unions changed so that when a man takes unconstitutional action he loses his right to fallback pay for a whole week instead of just for the few hours in which he actually took the action. As a matter of fact, outside London most ports already penalise dockers for the whole week rather than for the length of the action.
One of the more general, even if less open, disciplinary measures is the power, written into most productivity deals, of transferring a worker from one grade to another – the deployment of labour. This is an especially serious weapon where the differences between the pay of different grades is very great indeed (as in the steel industry). In the mines the use of disciplinary power by management is set out in the following statement: “If any team member is found to be unsatisfactory, the management, after consultation with the union, may transfer him to other work in keeping with his capabilities”. 
When other work may mean a wage cut of 50 percent, this is really a punishment! Grading, together with great wage differentials, is a sword of Damocles hanging over workers’ heads.
One crude weapon for disciplining workers is the tachograph or the “spy in the box”. When the Transport Bill becomes law it will be compulsory for all commercial vehicles to have one of these instruments fitted. The advocates of the tachograph claim that its purpose is to increase road safety, by ensuring that the vehicle is driven correctly, that the driver does not drive for a period longer than is stipulated and become overtired. The lorry driver regards the “spy box” as a sophisticated stopwatch in the hands of his employer.
The principle of the tachograph is not new. A cruder version of the instrument appeared in Britain before the last war when a dairy gave secret instructions to its fitters to install a box underneath its trucks. The drivers got to hear of it. The box became accident prone, and was quickly withdrawn.
An inspection of the tachograph at the end of the run will reveal the following:
When the vehicle was started.
When it returned.
How many miles were travelled.
How fast it was driven.
Whether it was delayed by customer or supplier.
When and where it stopped.
Whether or not the engine was left idling during stops.
Whether or not the rush order got rush treatment.
Which driver was at the wheel (driver and co-driver have their own keys). 
The idea of snooping on workers appeals to other employers besides those in haulage. Thus, following the widespread absenteeism on New Year’s Day, the Confederation of British Industry issued a report suggesting five courses open to management to combat absenteeism:
(1) To arrange a visit to the employee’s home by a member of the company’s welfare department.
(2) To arrange for workers with records of persistent absence to be examined by the company medical adviser on their return to work ... considering whether a change of job would be appropriate.
(3) To refer workers with particularly bad records of sickness absence to a joint works committee which would require such persons to explain their high level of sickness absence.
(4) To issue direct warnings to persistent absentees and finally to effect dismissal on the grounds that they are impeding the efficiency of the company.
Before this they may be offered alternative employment where their absence is less harmful.
(5) An employer may also be able to safeguard himself against employing people of this type either by asking for references that cover the point or by asking to see workers’ insurance cards before signing them on.
If the stamps are conspicuous by their absence the applicant for employment should be closely questioned as to the reasons. 
So a company representative is going to snoop on you, even if you are at home in bed!
One of the problems with the more direct kind of penalty clauses – i.e. where you lose bonus payments for going on unofficial strike – is that they tend to make strikes longer as workers will demand an undertaking that the clauses will not be enforced before returning to work. This, of course, destroys the whole object of the penalty clause. It seems likely that in future employers will favour alternative methods of tightening labour discipline, specially those such as the agreement in the electrical contracting industry which allows sanctions to be taken against individual militants rather than whole groups of strikers.
Quite often in the first round of a productivity deal workers are convinced that they have sold the bosses a dud for a good price – that they have given up nothing, or at most very little, and that they will be able in future to control the situation.
Thus a convenor of a large engineering factory in Essex wrote to me:
In one shop we agreed with management to cut the number of workers doing a certain job from 21 to 16, when in fact there had been all along only 16 men on the job. As a compensation the workers were paid 1s 6d an hour extra ... this was a very worthwhile productivity bargain.
A shop steward in another engineering factory in north London tells a similar story:
We got an increase after a survey of £1 plus a bonus scheme which gives an actual increase of 45s (totalling £3 5s). The concessions for this £3 5s were some equipment altered – e.g. stores moved two floors down to same level – quite sensible, made work easier, gantry fixed full length of shop (but in the wrong place). They wanted to introduce vending machines and stop fixed tea breaks. But this was successfully resisted. They wanted partial integration of work between pump fitters and engine testers – i.e., each could be asked to do the work of the other. Also rejected. But the integration of maintenance under exceptional circumstances has been accepted in principle, although this has not so far been implemented.
It has turned out to be a ridiculous bonus scheme and anti-productive from a management standpoint because it is possible to turn out loads of results which mean nothing where it is really better to turn out fewer but effective results. Strong shop organisation has made it possible to keep real output stable because it is so easy to confuse the lower management who don’t really understand the work done by the testers.
A third example comes from a more recently signed productivity deal:
We are confident of our ability to resist ... organisation is strong and the management weak ... since the productivity deal, output has gone down 25 percent. Workers have stopped all the dodges they used to maintain high production under piece-work ... whenever the work study engineers come in we are able to end up with a job easier than before.
Many workers, especially experienced militants, agree to productivity deals often because they think they can control them. If the agreement says that this or that should be measured by the stopwatch man, the workers are so well organised and militant that they can “bend” the agreement. But if the leadership in the factory or the shop ever changes, and this is natural and happens again and again, or if at any stage the management decides that they are going to transplant this agreement into another section of the group where they have a weak shopfloor organisation, the dam is broken and the light chains of the productivity deal turn into very heavy ones.
Even an “innocuous” deal can be very dangerous to the workers. It may well be the thin end of a wedge. Workers may become accustomed to the idea of productivity bargaining, while the employer may have learned that he has been conned, and in next round he will drive a much harder bargain.
1. Agreement for Trials of Proposals on Manpower Utilisation and Payment Structures Between Imperial Chemical Industries Limited and the Trades Unions Concerned, pp.1-2.
2. Rootes Motor Limited, Coventry, Proposed Agreement, p.8.
3. Agreement Concluded with the Enclosed Docks Employers with the Transport and General Workers Union and the National Amalgamated Stevedores and Dockers to provide for the Introduction of Permanent Employment of Labour, 9 June 1967.
4. Margam & Abbey Green Book.
5. British Steel Corporation, Proposals for Heavy Steel Agreement, 10 May 1969: “4(b)(ii) For two successive periods of 13 weeks following demotion he shall receive payment according to the following schedule:
Earnings of new job plus the undernoted
First period of 13 weeks
Second period of 13 weeks
6. British Steel Corporation, Proposals for Heavy Steel Agreement, 10 May 1969, p.9: “4(c)(ii) For four successive periods of 13 weeks following redeployment, he shall receive payment according to the following schedule:
Earnings of new job plus the undernoted
First period of 13 weeks
Second period of 13 weeks
Third period of 13 weeks
Fourth period of 13 weeks
7. NUR, Pay and Efficiency (Workshop Staff), p.16.
8. Productivity Development Agreement between Pressed Steel Fisher Limited, Common Lane, and Amalgamated Engineering and Foundry Workers’ Union, Birmingham and Midland Sheet Metal Workers’ Union, Electrical and Plumbers Trade Union, National Union of Vehicle Builders, Transport and General Workers Union, July 1969.
9. Socialist Worker, 23 November 1968.
10. Ministry of Labour, Introduction to Shift Working (London, 1967), Preface.
11. NUR, Pay and Efficiency (Workshop Staff), pp.6, 23-24. This last item has been rejected in the main railway workshops.
12. Margam & Abbey Green Book, Appendix A.
13. Donovan commission report no.21, Evidence of the Electricity Council, p.771.
14. Donovan commission report no.21, Evidence of the Electricity Council, p.788.
15. Prices and Incomes Board report no.42, Pay of Electricity Supply Workers, Cmnd 3405, p.4.
16. Prices and Incomes Board report no.32, Fire Service Pay, Cmnd 3287, p.13.
17. P.E. Mott and others, Shift Work: The Social, Psychological and Physical Consequences (Ann Arbor, 1965), p.235.
18. P.E. Mott and others, Shift Work, p.236.
19. P.E. Mott and others, Shift Work. p.236.
20. P.E. Mott and others, Shift Work, p.301.
21. P.E. Mott and others, Shift Work, p.281.
22. P.E. Mott and others, Shift Work, p.280.
23. P.E. Mott and others, Shift Work, p.15.
24. P.E. Mott and others, Shift Work, p.18.
25. P.E. Mott and others, Shift Work, p.18.
26. P.E. Mott and others, Shift Work, p.303.
27. E.L. Trist and others, Organisational Choice (London, 1963), p.259.
28. Margam & Abbey Green Book, Appendix A.
29. Financial Times, 29 March 1969.
30. J.W. Cameron, personnel manager, circular of 9 October 1969.
31. K Marx, Capital, vol.1 (Moscow, 1962).
32. R. Cox, Socialist Worker, 15 March 1969.
33. He added, “Cricket, dominoes, darts, sunbathing on the roof ... internal discount trading schemes all in the boss’s time ... and increasingly in front of him. Card schools have come out of the locker room onto the floor.”
34. Taking London for a Ride (London, 1967), p.9.
35. Report of a Court of Inquiry into Trade Dispute at the Barbican and Horsferry Road Construction Sites in London, September 1967, Cmnd 3396, p.35.
36. D.T.B. North and G.L. Buckingham, Productivity Agreements and Wage Systems (London, 1969), pp.197-199.
37. CBI evidence to the Donovan commission, nos.6 and 9, p.256.
38. E.J. Robertson, Productivity Bargaining and the Engineering Industry, p.25 (my emphasis).
39. The failure to make a firm stand by this principled distinction was an important reason for the eventual failure of the 1914-18 shop stewards movement – the development of a genuine class movement was prevented.
40. Financial Times, 4 November 1965.
41. Guardian, 29 October 1965.
42. Socialist Worker, June 1968.
43. Prices and Incomes Board report no.117, Pay and Conditions of Workers in the Exhibition Contracting Industry, Cmnd 4088.
44. An Interim Productivity Agreement between the Amalgamated Society of Boilermakers, Shipwrights, Blacksmiths and Structural Workers and Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Ltd, November 1968, p.3.
45. Summary of Agreement between Swan Hunter and Tyne Shipbuilders Limited and the Amalgamated Society of Boilermakers, Shipwrights, Blacksmiths and Structural Workers, 25 October 1968 (my emphasis).
46. Explanatory Notes and the Rules of the Joint Industry Board for the Electrical and Contracting Industry, July 1967, pp.25-26.
47. Prices and Incomes Board report no.120, p.8.
48. Memorandum on the Definition of “Unconstitutional Action” Which Determines the Six-Month Period of Disqualification for the Benefits of the Company’s Income Security Plan, 23 January 1969.
49. In the footsteps of Ford workers, municipal bus workers have also achieved a similar softening of the penalty clauses in their agreement. The penalty clause which until now has meant a loss of bonus for six months for those who stop work was changed so that the bonus is only lost for the week in which the stoppage occurs. Financial Times, 31 May 1969.
50. Vauxhall, 1969 Wage Negotiation, Productivity Considerations, Article 5.
51. National Power Loading Agreement.
52. P. Hobday, Tachograph, DATA Journal, November 1968.
53. Morning Star, 2 January 1970.
Last updated on 16.6.2004