Parties challenged to address workplace issues in General Election

Apr 08 2005 by Nic Paton Print This Article

The General Election may have started in earnest, but not one of the main political parties has a coherent agenda for the workplace, according to the Work Foundation.

In an “Agenda for Work” manifesto, the foundation has laid down a challenge to all the political parties, urging them to better address the issues affecting the UK workforce in their own election manifestoes.

Questions about the quality of work for the majority have not featured on the political agenda for some considerable time, said the foundation.

More attention needed to be paid to the issues that currently affect productivity in the UK and to understanding what constitutes “good work”, it argued.

It highlighted that many jobs still contain a lack of control over the pace of work and the key decisions that affect it.

On top of this there is often limited task discretion and monotonous and repetitive work, inadequate skill levels to cope with periods of intense pressure and an imbalance between effort and reward.

Workers often have limited “social capital” – either informal friendship networks or formal associations such as trade unions.

The foundation has set out a vision of “good work”, including full employment, fair pay (including equal pay for work of equal value), the absence of discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, sexuality, disability or age and secure and interesting jobs that employees find fulfilling.

It has also called for a style and ethos of management based on high levels of trust, and which recognises that managing people fairly and effectively is crucial to skilled work and high performance.

Workers, it argued, need choice, flexibility and control over working hours, autonomy and control over the pace of work and the working environment, statutory minimum standards to protect the most vulnerable against exploitation and a voice in the critical decisions made by employers that affect their futures.

Work Foundation chief executive Will Hutton said: “The purpose here is not to develop ‘good work’ for its own sake, but to recognise that the nation’s prosperity and the creation of more ‘high performance workplaces’ depends on this model being applied in practice.

“Yet no single political party has been able to express a vision of what a 21st Century Knowledge Economy would actually look and feel like for those running and working in organisations,” he added.