‘Lazy’ public sector attacks
He makes 3 key points: Firstly, that existing measures of public sector productivity are inadequate; secondly, that the nature of public sector reform will make trying to get a handle on public sector productivity ever more complex; and thirdly, that while ‘real and sustained productivity improvement happens in ordinary workplaces such as hospital wards and benefit offices…the term “productivity” is being used by some politicians as a thinly disguised proxy for “working harder” or “sweating your assets”.
This last point is crucial and speaks to the issue of how politicians do – or, rather more usually, don’t – fully engage public sector workers in efforts to improve services and productivity. To be fair government has made efforts to address this problem – see for example the work that the TUC and unions have undertaken with government under the auspices of ‘Drive for Change’– but all too often public sector workers feel public sector reform is something done to them, rather than something in which they are genuinely engaged. Working people harder and for less can result in short-term improvements in productivity, but are unlikely to be sustainable over the medium-long term.
As Stephen Bevan points out,
‘In such a highly unionised environment it will be important to engage the workforce in this task. They can be a source of lucid common sense, innovation and great energy if well led and allowed to influence the way services are organised and delivered. Yet no government in the past 20 years has bothered to have a constructive public sector industrial relations strategy.’
Lets hope progressive politicians put this approach at the forefront of public sector reform over the coming months and years!