Soft Sell
Quality of Working Life Programs and the Productivity Race

Wells, Don
Publisher:  Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Ottawa, Canada
Year Published:  1987
Pages:  100pp   ISBN:  0-88627-065-0
Library of Congress Number:  HD6955.W44 1986   Dewey:  331.25
Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX3206

Quality of Working Life is a grab-bag of programs that promise workplace improvements and greater job satisfaction in exchange for increased productivity on the part of Canadian workers. But, says Don Wells, the promise of a new way to satisfy workers' needs has been proven false. Wells shows that QWL programs can present a direct, though carefully hidden, threat to the union movement.

SOFT SELL is a critique of the promise for workplace involvement and greater job satisfaction held out by Quality of Working Life (AWL) programmes. The author dissects programmes in two industrial settings to show that there has indeed been an increase in productivity, but at heavy cost. Wells shows that these programmes presennt a direct though carefully hidden, threat to the union solidarity, and at their worst cause lay-offs and poor morale. He shows that QWL is designed to adjust workers to jobs, not jobs to workers, and perpetuate the continuing subordination of workers to the workplace. In his final chapter, he outlines the challenges faced by today's labour movement, and proposes tatics whereby workers and their unions can turn QWL programmes to their own advantage.

Table of Contents

1. The Rise of QWL in Plant A
i) From the Top Down
ii) An Experimental Beginning
iii) The Project Expands
iv) The Short, Unhappy Life of a Second Experiment
v) The Quality Booster Program
vi) The Union Withdraws - but QWL Continues
vii) Summary
2. QWL and Management's Goals
3. QWL's Impact on Workers and Their Union
i) The False Promise of Job Satisfaction
ii) Solidarity Divided
iii) The Last Frontier of Management Control
iv) An End Run Around the Union
v) In Conclusion
4. The Hollow Promises of QWL
5. The Experiments in Plant B
i) Designed from Above
ii) QWL in One Department
iii) Some Innovations in Human Relations
iv) The Payoff's in Productivity
v) More QWL, More Layoffs
vi) One More Experiment
vii) Summary
6. The Real Consequences for Workers
i) QWL and Job Satisfaction
ii) QWL and Worker Solidarity
iii) QWL and Worker Resistance
iv) QWL and Union Leadership
v) In Conclusion
7. QWL Versus Genuine Workers' Control
8. Getting a Handle on QWL

Subject Headings

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