More with Less: Work Reorganization in the Canadian Mining Industry
Contains Bibliography, Index
David Bennett is the national director of the Department of Workplace Health, Safety and Environment at the Canadian Labour Congress in Ottawa.
More with Less traces the fortunes of workers in five Saskatchewan
industries—four potash companies and one uranium producer. As a work
of descriptive industrial sociology, the book is a great achievement:
the author got the cooperation of workers and their unions in a piece of
thorough and balanced research.
What is problematic is Russell’s theoretical approach. He begins by
outlining a management theory known as post-Fordism, which seeks to
radically reorganize the workplace without the traditional structures of
adversarialism (collective bargaining between unions and employers),
rigid job classifications, narrow job descriptions, and legalistic
grievance procedures. While Russell is correct in claiming that this
philosophy has penetrated traditional as well as newer high-tech
industries, it soon becomes clear that the framework fails to fully
explain the changes taking place in the selected industries. It would
have been far better to have done what the title of the book
suggests—namely, to show the pressures on workers to do more with less
(and for less money, with fewer benefits), and to explain where these
pressures come from and how they were realized at the point of
production. Post-Fordist methods were only one such pressure felt by the
workers, and not usually the main one.
To be fair, Russell does not usually try to try to push the framework
beyond its usefulness as an analytical tool. Where he does do so, the
text degenerates into opaque, wooden sociological jargon.