Saturday, 19 May 2007

Flexible Labour market

In the NHS life could not be better, the government are making the health labour market more flexible and things are on the up at last. What does this mean for us? I shall explain.

Labour market flexibility refers to the degree in which labour markets quickly adapt to fluctuations and changes in society as well as in the economy or production."

There are generally regarded to be four types of flexibility:

External numerical flexibility refers to the adjustment of the labour intake; in the NHS the government has been working towards this by employing more staff on shorter fixed term contracts and with nice relaxed hiring and firing regulations. Flooding the health labour market with an excess of trained staff will also improve this flexibility, the more unemployed the better as far as the flexibility is concerned.

Internal numerical flexibility, sometimes known as working-time flexibility or temporal flexibility. This flexibility achieved by adjusting working hours or schedules of workers already employed within the firm. This has been improved very cheaply indeed in the NHS by not paying staff for their overtime hours.

Functional flexibility or organizational flexibility is the extent employees can be transferred to different activities and tasks within the firm. This has been achieved by empowering less trained workers to do the jobs of the doctor/nurse/paramedic and by out sourcing various bits of NHS work to less developed countries where the work can be done shoddily and cheaply.

Financial or wage flexibility is in which wage levels are not decided collectively and there are more differences between the wages of workers. This is done so that pay and other employment cost reflect the supply and demand of labour. This can be achieved by rate-for-the-job systems, or assessment based pay system, or individual performance wages. This has been achieved by some well thought out new contracts that pay staff based on their performance and satisfying of tick box targets. The expansion of the private sector in a way that forces staff to work there for a lower rate of pay and under worse conditions is a way in which this flexibility has been improved. The creation of an exploited sub consultant grade will also contribute to this flexibility, as will the large numbers of unemployed health workers in the form of doctors/nurses/physiotherapists.

I have to put my hand up to the government and say well done, you have indeed read your A-level economics textbook and realised that you could make the NHS cheaper by increasing the flexibility of the labour market. Bravo.

Unfortunately you should have realised that a lot of conventional economics is fatally flawed codswallop. Increasing the flexibility of the labour market will wreck the NHS by reducing the quality of the service provided and demoralising the staff beyond the point of no return. It may not have mentioned in your economic text book that the labour market has no magic ball and chain that prevents its workers from simply buggering off elsewhere where the grass is very much greener.

Doctors, nurses and other NHS workers are quitting the NHS in their droves. Some are emigrating and others are switching careers. These highly skilled workers did not come cheap either, each doctor cost over two hundred thousand pounds to train. It does rather appear that your little plan has backfired somewhat; but luckily for you it will be the patients who will be the ones to suffer, not yourselves. I do hope though that you have learnt the lesson that it is far better to try to cooperate with people to improve a service that to force through ideology against people's will. Oh I forgot, you never really intended to improve the service did you? It was more a case of corruptly selling off the NHS to your buddies, while pretending to give a monkeys at the same time, right?

No comments: