New Conference: The productivity gap, workplace inequalities and underperformance: A question of employee representation?

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.

The Centre for Sustainable Work and Employment Futures is holding a day conference to explore the connected issues of productivity, underperformance, and workplace inequalities. The event will take place on Thursday 18th June at College Court, Leicester between 9.30am and 5.00pm.

The conference will address 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 will be opened by Professor Paul Boyle, the President and Vice Chancellor of the University. Professor Peter Nolan will situate the present productivity crisis in theoretical and historical context and Professor Ian Clark will examine the international and financial forces that have inhibited Britain's economic development. The inter-related issues of representation, employee disenfranchisement, and deepening workplace inequalities will be explored in presentations by, Dr Shireen Kanji and Dr Robert Macey. Professor Jeremy Waddington will draw upon his recent research on employee representation at Board level in Europe to illuminate the extent of Britain's representation gap. The foundations of a new policy agenda for greater fairness and efficiency at work will form the focus of a roundtable discussion of leading policy-makers and stakeholders.

If you would like further information about the conference, please contact Gemma Parker.

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School of Business
University of Leicester
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