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Workers’ responses to managerial driven change: the case of
Modernisation in the Royal Mail.

Pender, Michael

Workers’ responses to managerial driven change: the case of
Modernisation in the Royal Mail. Thumbnail


Michael Pender


This thesis examines the recent and high profile modernisation agenda within the Royal Mail, where a well organised union facing a unified employer has proven able to challenge market-driven change at both national and local levels (see Gall, 2003; Lyddon, 2009). Much of the study’s focus concentrates on the locus of the shopfloor itself by way of an in-depth, qualitative analysis of four individual Royal Mail workplaces which differ in terms of task, age, size and geographical setting. Of particular concern here is how restructuring is perceived by workers and how this is reflected in their collective and individual responses to managerial attempts to change established working practices and intensify workloads.

While such a focus is best understood through a consideration of labour process theory, research draws heavily upon Edwards’ (1988) study of conflict and accommodation, which addresses the scope for individual and collective responses to a range of structural pressures in a detailed analysis of variety of workplace settings. It will be recalled that in the case of Royal Mail, a set of relatively uniform industry-wide pressures have evoked a range of localised workgroup responses. Accordingly, a greater understanding of workers’ responses to managerial driven change is sought through a consideration of Batstone et al.’s (1977) workplace study of shop stewards. This provides an evaluation of the nature of local workplace organisation and the types of worker behaviour to which it may give rise. Together these form this study’s analytical framework.

The findings highlight that postal workers and their union have, on the whole, been extremely effective in limiting the downward pressures of modernisation upon workplace organisation within the UK postal service and that, as with the wider public sector, marketdriven models of labour management have been mediated by both service context and worker agency (Thomas and Davies, 2005: 689).


Pender, M. (2016). Modernisation in the Royal Mail


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