The Productivity Gap, Workplace Inequalities and Underperformance: A Question of Employee Representation?

View the timetable for the conference here

Productivity is the political issue of the moment. Britain’s appalling relative performance since the 2008 economic crisis is often presented as a new phenomenon, something that may have been exacerbated by the high rates of employment growth in recent years, but this is a wholly tendentious claim. Poor productivity growth rates inhibited the performance of the British economy, and hampered the improvement of living standards, throughout the post-1945 period. Already evident in the 1950s, the productivity deficit had by the 1980s been lifted to the top of the political agenda and cited by Mrs Thatcher’s governments as the dominant reason for a root and branch transformation of Britain’s industrial relations.

While it would be difficult to plausibly attribute Britain’s current low relative productivity record to labour market rigidities, particularly union obstructionism - the main incantation of the 1970s and 1980s - there may nevertheless be telling connections between the management of employment relations, workplace structures of power and inequality, and the underperformance of many British-based industries and organisations.

On Thursday 18th June, The Centre for Sustainable Work and Employment Futures held a day conference to explore the connected issues of productivity, underperformance, and workplace inequalities.

The conference addressed the following connected themes:

  • The productivity gap and the role of industrial relations
  • The international origins of Britain’s economic weakness
  • The extent and significance of the representation gap in Britain
  • The sources and dimensions of workplace inequalities
  • Board level employee representation in Europe
  • The elements of a new policy agenda

The conference was opened by Professor Paul Boyle, the President and Vice Chancellor of the University.

Where able, conference speakers have shared their presentations. You can read these by clicking on the titles below.

Professor Peter Nolan - Britain’s Productivity Deficit: History, Significance and Prospects

Mark Beatson - Productivity: Getting the Best Out of People

Professor Ian Clark - Beyond Industrial Relations? The International Origins of Productivity Under Performance

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