UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Creation of fear driven workplaces = Tory strategy for public service reform

The revelation in today’s Observer, by senior Cabinet Minister Oliver Letwin MP, that the Government is determined to instil "fear" among those working in the public sector should surprise nobody, other than those gullible enough to believe that the Tory Party has abandoned its Thatcher era hostility to the public services workforce:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/jul/30/public-sector-jobs-oliver-letwin

Tory re-positioning to win over public service workers during the Cameron leadership has clearly been a master class in deception.

Letwin states that "you can't have room for innovation and the pressure for excellence without having some real discipline and some fear on the part of the providers that things may go wrong if they don't live up to the aims that society as a whole is demanding of them."

Yet who remembers the Tory manifesto for public service workers issued just before the 2010 General Election? ‘Fear and discipline’ were conspicuously absent from David Cameron’s 7 promises to public service workers: http://www.conservatives.com/News/News_stories/2010/04/An_invitation_to_public_sector_workers.aspx

The Observer report once again gives the lie to Tory claims that ‘we’re all in it together’ and that unions have a genuine role in shaping public service reform:

As recently as 11 July, when launching the open public services white paper in Parliament, Letwin said that: ‘I hope very much that trade unions will play a role. In conjunction with Cabinet colleagues, I am holding a series of meetings with public service unions to discuss how they can help to design some of the details of the reforms so that they will work better’ http://services.parliament.uk/hansard/Commons/ByDate/20110711/mainchamberdebates/part002.html

Well one important detail to be pointed out in those meetings is that instilling fear at work is the hallmark of a bully and bad employer and, contrary to Tory shock doctrine dogma, the associated insecurity and low morale are not conducive to achieving innovation and improved productivity.

Such a brutal management strategy might – on Letwin’s terms - have worked for Rupert Murdoch’s News International at Wapping in 1986 (not to mention the Victorian mill owners) but it has no place in 21st Century public services.