High Performance Work Systems and the Technical Worker
Technical workers are one of the largest occupational groups in Britain’s manufacturing sector and the largest in aerospace itself. Their role of indirectly productive workers within ‘mental’ labour (Smith, 1987) or ‘productive intellectual labour’ (Armstrong, 1987) makes them as indispensable to production and the generation of profit as productive manual workers on the shop-floor. The labour embodied in a finished aircraft or aero-engine includes the work of large numbers of scientists, design engineers, technologists, stress engineers, draughtsmen and women, estimators, production engineers, quality engineers, planners and progress chasers, plus support roles contained in project engineering, procurement, marketing, accounting, sales and customer support. It is curious, therefore, that the experience of technical workers is rarely included in recent accounts of organizational restructuring or of the impact of high performance work techniques in manufacturing (McGovern, 1996 and 1998 provides one of the few exceptions).
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