Challenges for Workers and Unions
Edited by Carole Thornley, Steve Jefferys and Beatrice Appay
Chapter 14: Changing Lanes or Stuck in the Slow Lane? Employment Precariousness and Labour Market Status of MG Rover Workers Four Years After Closure
Alex de Ruyter, David Bailey and Michelle Mahdon INTRODUCTION: GLOBALIZATION, FLEXIBILITY AND PRECARIOUSNESS A recurrent theme in international policy debates spanning the years 1985–2010 has been the imperatives of globalization and economic restructuring. In advanced industrial economies discussion has centred on the need to reduce trade barriers, reduce costs and improve competitiveness against low-cost NICs and emerging economies such as the ‘BRICs’ (Brazil, Russia, India and China). Typically, discussions have focused on the need for advanced economies to streamline welfare regimes and encourage greater flexibility in labour and product markets (OECD, 1994). A key manifestation of globalization (in the UK and US particularly, but also other industrialized countries) has been an apparent shift away from manufacturing to services industries; a process which has been typified in the UK by a number of high-profile plant closures (Pike, 2002, 2005; Bailey et al., 2008a, 2008b; Armstrong et al., 2008). In practice, the position is more nuanced than this, with a process of deindustrialization combined with a blurring of the lines between manufacturing and services (Brinkley, 2009). As such, whilst total employment in industrialized countries such as the UK had grown (certainly until the current economic crisis at the time of writing), many newly created positions required skills that were not found in the industries shedding labour – or else have been in substandard, lowpaid, low-skilled, low-job-security occupations (Nolan, 2004). There is 214 Changing lanes or stuck in the slow lane? 215 evidence to suggest that cycles of recession and structural change have...
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