Blog: Dave LeggettProductivity

Dave Leggett | 27 January 2004

The media is having a field day here over the 'Arctic freeze' we're supposedly getting this week. Yes, the temperature in London may actually dip a degree or so below freezing tonight and if there's 1cm of snow the country will be sure to grind to a halt. Trains will stop running, schools will shut, motorists will be stranded on ungritted roads. It's actually quite amusing - always the same disruptions - but the basic problem is that we don't get enough cold weather to merit the investment in snow ploughs and all the systems to deal with snow. And with global warming over the past ten years, snow in southern England has become even rarer (it snows about one day a year in London on average I believe, but often winters are snowless). It would be nice though to throw a snowball or two later this week... 

In between the near obsession we have with the weather, I've been hearing this morning on the radio about the underlying productivity problem facing the British economy. For all the talk of Britain's economic revolution ushered in by Mrs Thatcher in the 1980s and for all the pointing at the European Union and saying - in a slightly lofty tone - that we don't want to go too far down the European integration road, the reality is this. We in Britain have about the same wealth per head as the French but we work longer hours for it. That means that collectively we're less productive than our near neighbours on the continent. And the working hours gap ain't closing. Great.

And the acrimonious 'us and them' type industrial relations disputes that plagued British industry - especially automotive - in the '70s are a thing of the past in modern Britain aren't they? Not quite perhaps. That pay dispute at Land Rover is straight out of the 1970s. I won't pontificate on the rights and wrongs - there are two sides to every dispute - but there seems to be a lot of underlying frustration amongst the workforce at Land Rover and it won't be doing the company any good at all. Sometimes disputes like these are symptoms of deeper problems and fundamental distrust. Sad to see and I hope LR management and its workers can get over this quickly and develop better relations.


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