In numerous sectors we are witnessing an increase in the economy in terms of production; which of course directly causes further demand for labour from the manufacturing side. In any other era or other country this change would always mean more profit; however, what we are witnessing in this latest economy doesn’t necessarily mirror that belief or pattern; the age old adage “do more with less” is now more amplified than ever. It seems almost everyone in any organization now requires their own personal hat rack for all the roles they are asked or forced to play. For those that are privy to the bottom line information it is quite apparent that the margins are clearly down and in order to compete in this ‘global business office’ we are forced to make sacrifices and cut back where possible to sustain the type of growth necessary to stay competitive.
The days where we simply had to worry about our competition down the street or in the neighbouring cities are long gone. Offshore manufacturing and technology has now become the new business model for many. Cutting back on benefits and pensions with fewer personnel seems to be the most common survival technique in this guerilla style economy. It’s astonishing to think that an item made 6 miles away will cost 10 times the amount as the same item made 6, 000 miles away. This reality becomes increasingly difficult to accept for those building the goods that ultimately contribute to the finished product, for which the price remains consistent in the retail market. After all, we’re not seeing the price of vehicles drop as the wages diminish. The anger and continuous protest we are seeing from the unions persists to escalate as their legacy becomes infected with all their progression seemingly no longer relevant with this unprecedented global competition. The direct obvious result is that the labour disputes continue in escalation with more negotiations being conducted with hostility and an exceptional sense of conviction as contract talks continue to go down to the wire. This proves positive that management’s needs for further concessions in an attempt to stay competitive are simply too much for the workers to accept.
A few short months ago, the usual cold snowy Saturday morning wasn’t much of a sacrifice to the average worker and overtime seemed like a pretty good idea; certainly a logical one in terms of padding the pocket book. But as the weather becomes increasingly pleasant, those Saturdays now fall straight in the middle of cottage plans or a possible outdoor getaway. Suddenly that easy sacrifice receives much more resistance as quality family time now turns into ‘forced company time’. As a result the employees deduce; with all these extra hours being added there must be a great deal of surplus in terms of finance, after all their sweat equity hasn’t diminished. This frustration of being overworked and perceptually under paid has a number of negative bi-products associated with it such as workplace violence, company theft or sabotage, substance abuse, and of course benefit fraud in an attempt to manufacture their own subjectively deserved vacation.
This unrest in the workplace will continue until the labour market is completely assimilated to the new business model. Whether our manufacturing jobs are emigrating overseas or we are forced into the overseas economy, this is a topic that will have to be continuously educated to our people in detail.
We have all often vacationed in these new manufacturing hotbeds; but if the current market is any indication, clearly we are now being forced to live there, only without the preferable weather.