According to the Keep Britain Working website, set up to promote the “innovative ways” that “employers keep people working” (and which enjoys the support of the likes of Boris Johnson and BP) more than half of UK workers have experienced a cut in pay, a decrease in hours or an attack on working conditions since the beginning of the recession.
27% of workers in the UK have taken a pay cut, 24% have seen a cut in hours, and 24% have “lost benefits”. 37% of workers have experienced one of these attacks, whereas 27% have experienced two and 5% have experienced all three.
Workers are also being shouldered with increased responsibilities without additional pay in order to maintain a slimmed down workforce. 40% have been given extra duties, wheras 20% have seen the nature of their job changed.
The report praises the “unprecedented flexibility” of the UK workforce in bearing these attacks. A previous report had described the limited fightback by workers as part of a “new altruism” as workers shoulder the cost of the recession – whilst noting that bosses should appear to make sacrifices themselves in order to “maintain support” and stave off “direct action”.
Unfortunately, the report does reflect the fact that workers in the UK see little scope for action after decades of defeats – only 3% would “consider strike action” if bosses asked for sacrifices but made none themselves, whilst an equivalent number would simply seek redundancy.
However, joint action can effectively prevent attempts to squeeze the cost of the recession out of the workforce, as the recent Visteon dispute showed. Bosses use the recession as cover to pursue “restructurings” in their interests and to squeeze more profit from their workers. Interestingly, 47% of those who answered an online poll on the website asking whether workers would go as far as the Visteon workers in defence of their jobs agreed.
For practical suggestions on how to deal with cutbacks in the workplace, see what recession means for us.