According to the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics, the productivity of the British workforce has increased significantly over the past few years.
This is certainly not due to massive investment by British manufacturers in new technology, products or machines, which could, in and of themselves, increase productivity. On the contrary, total investment in plant and machinery continued its decline over these same years. And when investment has been made, it has usually been to replace old machines, with the aim of increasing profitability.
So no, if productivity has increased in British factories, it is primarily due to an increase in the exploitation of the workforce. The car industry provides a graphic example of this turn of the bosses' screw.
Over the past 5-6 years, car bosses have been squeezing more value out of car workers through the imposition of an array of what they call "flexibility" measures. A few figures illustrate the result.
1998 and 1999 were years of record production in Britain with over 1,976 000 vehicles manufactured in both years. The workforce employed in making vehicles, bodies and engines (excluding other components) in 1998 totalled 154,000. In 1999 for the same level of production the workforce had fallen to 146,000.
However, by 2003 (the last available figures) the workforce had decreased even further, to 123,000 - a 20% fall since 1998. Yet these workers made 1,846,429 vehicles in 2003 - almost as many as in the record-breaking years. This represents an increase of around 14% in the number of cars produced per worker over the period 1998-2003 - in other words, a 14% increase in the rate of exploitation of the workforce.
Meanwhile, and despite this fall in the size of the workforce, capital expenditure per worker by car companies has fallen dramatically - by 40% over the period 1998-2002 - showing that investment has little or nothing to do with the increase in the number of cars produced per worker.
Pushing workers to the limit
These are crude and inaccurate measures, of course. The reality on the job is far more telling. The "new flexible methods of working" are not actually all that new. They are simply designed to get even more out of each worker. And they involve stricter disciplinary regimes which penalise those who do not comply. In addition, workers can be expected to take over a whole range of jobs, regardless of their skills or experience, with minimal "training", or even no training at all.
Various phrases, some Japanese, like "Kaizen", others in good old English like "lean production", "just in time", etc.. are floated around, as if they had some kind of magical effect, while really all the bosses are up to is covering up with jargon the cracking of the whip over workers' heads.
"Just in time" production methods, for instance, are now universally in use in the industry. They are attributed to the founder of the Toyota company, Sakichi Toyoda, who merely refined Ford's assembly line system in the early days of Toyota car production, so that each element of the manufacturing process produces only the items needed by the next stage down the line.
As to "Kaizen", it refers to a system which supposedly requires each worker, as part of a team with collective responsibility for their part of the process, to detect faults and abnormalities and find ways to improve the process. And if faults are missed, not only can an individual worker be held responsible and penalised, but also the whole team. The idea being to pressurise workers into keeping their heads down and putting pressure on one another to get the job done, no matter how.
As said before, these methods are hardly new. Car bosses tried to implement the so-called Toyota Production System (TPS) and "team working" in the 1980s, but never got very far because the balance of forces on the shopfloor usually prevented them from getting away with most of it.
The notable exception was when the Engineering union (now Amicus) signed single union deals with Nissan and Toyota in the late 1980s. In return for a guaranteed new membership, union leaders agreed not only to "no-strike" clauses but also to these disciplinarian work-intensifying methods at the new Nissan and Toyota plants, which are today responsible for the largest vehicle production in Britain, both employing workforces of around 4,500.
Blackmail on "efficiencies"
The other car bosses, whose much older plants were established in the days when collective agreements were made with the whole array of manual unions, and who therefore, at least in theory, had to go through a series of negotiations to make changes to working practices, began resorting to systematic blackmail to get what they wanted. If what they called "efficiencies" - i.e. ways of cutting costs by worsening working conditions - were not accepted and implemented, they threatened to close down factories and move production elsewhere.
Of course falling for such blackmail was a trap. Once the bosses had what they wanted, nothing could stop them from wanting more - up and including carrying out their original threats. Nothing could stop them, that is except industrial action. So industrial action was always the best response to their blackmail in the first place.
This blackmail was what workers in the Ford-Dagenham Fiesta assembly plant experienced 3 years ago. "Efficiencies" were agreed on the unions' recommendation in return for the guaranteed "privilege" of building the new model Fiesta at Dagenham. But the plant never got the "new" Fiesta. The last "old" Fiesta rolled off the end of the line at Dagenham in February 2002 along with 2,700 jobs.
However, Ford had a much harder time with the 8,000-strong workforce in the Land-Rover Solihull plant (which it had bought from BMW in 2000). There, workers resisted Ford's attempts to introduce more radical changes to their working conditions for 3 years, having already had a certain amount of flexibility imposed on them by BMW in 1998. However, as the launch of a new model Freelander was being prepared for 2006, Ford upped the stakes by announcing that it was not intending to produce it at Solihull - which would have meant new investment in that plant - but instead to use existing "spare capacity" at its Halewood plant in Liverpool. The company even had the nerve to claim that this would be "job neutral" as the resulting 1,100 jobs cut at Solihull would be compensated by 1,000 jobs "created" at Halewood - more than 90 miles from Solihull! No doubt this was meant to act as a warning to the "recalcitrant" Land Rover workers that the future of the Solihull plant was at risk.
However, a few months later, in October 2003, despite (or because of) this threat against their jobs, Land Rover workers refused to accept Ford's latest pay deal which included yet another attempt to undermine their working conditions.
So by May 2004, Ford upped the stakes once again, pulling its blackmail routine out of its hat. All of a sudden, Solihull was "the worst of Ford's European factories" and Land Rover's managing director announced that "The threats are more that you are unlikely to receive the investment going forward if you don't have a plan, which means eventual closure, a slow and lingering death".
Having laid down the terms of the blackmail, Ford demanded that the union officials should be the ones to knot the rope with which workers would be hanged, by producing a "roadmap" which could bring the plant's productivity up to scratch within 3 years. But instead of exposing this bluff for what it was, by telling the management to go hang themselves, the union officials complied. In September 2004, after four months of "negotiations", they had eventually completed this "roadmap" to Ford's satisfaction. The T&G's automotive industry official, Dave Osborne recommended the deal to the workforce, announcing: "On the basis of today's agreement we would expect Solihull, which has been the home of Land Rover for over 50 years, to remain so for the next 50 years"... The plan, of course, was full of the usual "Kaizen" efficiencies, all at the workers' expense. But Osborne claimed at the time that this would merely bring the plant into line with the rest of "Ford plants".
When put to the workforce, the plan evoked far less enthusiasm. Only 6,000 of the 8,000 workers cast a ballot, and 63% voted for it. Osborne's counterpart from Amicus, Tony Murphy, tried to explain why 2,100 workers had voted against the deal: "Undoubtedly the ballot outcome has been affected by the effective closure of Brown's Lane [Jaguar plant] announced last week. Ford will need to work hard to convince a sceptical workforce that their agreements securing the future of their plants are real and firm guarantees."
Indeed, the closure of the Brown's Lane plant had been another case of Ford breaking a previous pledge. But if, as Murphy admitted, Ford had been exposed for "breaking agreements", why on earth had he and the other union officials had recommended the Land Rover deal to the workforce in the first place?
The "Kaizen" comes
Ford had still to turn the screw on other Ford plants where working practices had not yet "changed" according to the latest "Kaizen" methods, despite numerous agreements over the years which had eroded conditions.
For instance, at the Dagenham Engine Plant, the workforce was confronted in mid-2004 with a new agreement entitled "Transforming Working Practices", to be signed, sealed and delivered by their union officials in exchange for a guarantee that the plant would be "awarded" a new DV diesel engine series in 2007 along with 600 new jobs.
This agreement contained a variant on "Kaizen" production techniques which in the words of some workers, would turn the place into a sweatshop. Among the measures it proposed, workers would have to be at their stations before the official starting time, the working day would be measured from the moment the line started up and the 5 minutes washing up time at the end of the shift would no longer be paid. Seniority would cease to be the criterion for promotions or transfers to "better", mostly off-line jobs, thereby condemning older, longer serving workers to remaining on assembly line jobs, but also allowing managers to discriminate against militant workers. Some jobs which had been done sitting down would now have be done standing up because that makes you work faster, apparently! As for taking a breather, having a smoke or reading a paper, if a line breaks down, tasks assigned for such occasions (eg cleaning) would be done instead.
More importantly, this agreement required union officials to come up with a way to cut one hour off the production time of each engine. And, in addition, it demanded the further outsourcing of operations such as maintenance, driving and stores, for "cost-savings". In so doing, the company calculated that it would be able to cut the equivalent of 340 jobs. In other words, if and when the new DV engine series comes to be built there, taking the new 600 jobs at face value, only 260 of them would be actual "new" jobs - and that is not taking into account all the jobs gone due to not replacing retiring workers.
If the new agreement was not signed, workers were told that Ford would consider other possibilities like building their engine in the Czech republic... One might have asked why, then, Ford had built an award-winning brand new diesel assembly plant on site, purpose-built for the production of this kind of engine and already housing a large team of highly skilled diesel engine engineers!
But, against all evidence of Ford's bluff, union officials endorsed the company's blackmail with a campaign urging the workforce to accept the changes. Unlike at Land Rover, however, there was no question of balloting the workforce on this - probably union leaders reckoned that they would not have a majority on the shopfloor to back their recommendation. So they signed up to the productivity measures on workers' behalf, although they did turn down most of the outsourcing measures - for the time being.
As it was, when workers did have a vote - over the 2004-5 pay offer - they turned it down overwhelmingly. Finally in December 2004, the announcement of the "winning" of the new engine for Dagenham was made against "stiff competition" from Ford plants outside the UK, according to Roger Putnam, Chairman of Ford Britain. It would create "up to 460 jobs" - not the 600 originally announced by Ford. And how many of these jobs would be filled by permanent workers? Ford did not say, of course!
Temps are cooler - for the bosses
The use and abuse of temporary workers as a low-cost (no pension or sick pay, sometimes lower wages than permanent workers), disposable workforce is not new in the car industry.
Significantly temps have been used extensively for a very long time in white collar jobs where militant traditions were weak. For instance, at Ford's HQ in Warley (Essex) and at its Payroll centre, around half the clerical jobs are done by temps. It was also the case for clerical jobs in production plants where some workers remained "temporary" for as long as ten years!
At production level in car factories, the use of temps may not be not entirely new, but the scale of it certainly is.
BMW, for instance, has used agency temps for years at is Cowley plant, near Oxford. But it was only after it had sold all its other plants, in 2000, that it began to increase considerably its use of temps. So that, today, temps on the Mini production lines at Cowley outnumber permanent workers: there are 1,800 temps and 1,200 permanent line workers! The use of temps is now so entrenched that the two agencies used by BMW - Manpower and Right4Staff - have their own offices on the premises!
Over the whole 4-year period during which thousands of temps have come and gone, 950 of them have been taken on permanently, some after waiting up to 3 years. However, once made "permanent", they still have to face a 12-month "probationary period" (after 2-3 years on the job!) and have lower sick pay for the first 5 years as well as fewer rights, making them easier to sack. A current proposal in the new pay deal is to give 50 more temps permanent contracts but no sick pay for the first 12 months.
At Ford, the use of temps started around the same time, but was limited to an extent by resistance from the shopfloor. However, the principle of refusing Ford's use of temps on the grounds that permanent workers should be recruited, was eventually smashed at the Halewood plant, after the end of the Escort production was announced in 1997, accompanied by job cuts and various forms of blackmail. It was also at this time that the very first batch of temporary workers was brought into the Ford Dagenham Engine plant, while the Dagenham Assembly and Body plants were still holding firm against this practice.
Among this first batch of Dagenham temps, most got permanent jobs at the end of their six-month term. This was not the case at Halewood, where 754 temps had been taken on. However there was some uproar when Ford tried to dump these temps in September 2001 and 300 of them were given permanent jobs as a result. But Halewood has continued to make use of temps, systematically hiring and firing as needed.
This last year, Dagenham Engine plant management has again resorted to the use of temporary workers - recruiting a total of 200 (out of 800 applicants!) on six-month fixed term contracts in two batches. Some of them had their contracts extended, but they have been told they will now have to leave on 22 January 2005. This time, there is apparently no question of permanent contracts. In the meantime, this will have allowed Ford to man up a new line designed as a "Kaizen" line, in their new engine plant, to which permanent workers were reluctant to be transferred. Temps, of course, had no choice! With this sleight of hand, Ford has introduced its changes in working practices through the backdoor.
Instead of standing by the principle that all workers should have the same status, rights and conditions, the unions' policy in all the car plants has been to "expect" a few permanent contracts to be offered to a small minority of temps and to boast of their own achievements when and if this happens. Of late, because companies have now been keeping temps on for very long periods of time - by extending six-month contracts for two or three years or even longer - the union leadership is taking a different line by invoking the law and accusing companies who dump such temps of making them compulsorily redundant, thereby breaking existing agreements excluding compulsory redundancies. Whether this can impress the bosses, without any threat from the workforce itself, is another question. In any case, so far, there is no sign of this.
Nevertheless the unions have organised some protests on the issue. For instance at Nissan Sunderland, when the company announced that it was ending 60 fixed term contracts in March 2003, without first consulting the union, Amicus. More recently, In November 2004, at Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port factory, hundreds of workers joined a protest organised by the T&G over the termination of the contracts of 46 temporary assembly workers who had been in the plant for two and a half years.
Time is not on workers' side
The most pernicious of all means to turn the screw on the workforce over the last five years has been the way in which working time has been extended. And shift patterns which alternate a week of day shifts with a week of night shifts continue, despite all the scientific evidence condemning such hours of work, since it never allows workers to adapt to the change.
In fact round-the-clock shift-working has always been the norm in car plants, even if this is unjustifiable on grounds of any imaginable "necessity" except, of course, that of profits.
Everyone, from politicians and bosses to union leaders, talk about "work-life-balance" these days. But for car workers, this is a sick (literally!) joke. What is the use of reducing working hours when rotating shift work still carries on - even if the hours are theoretically "less"? For instance a 37-hour week averaged out over two weeks consisting of 4 nights in a row of 9 hours, followed by four day shifts lasting 8 hours, and one day shift of 6 hours? Or a 37.5 hour week, measured over three weeks of a rotating 3-shift system with five day shifts, (eg. 6am-2pm) followed by five late shifts (2pm-10pm) and then five nights (10pm to 6am)? This frequent shift change cannot allow for any physiological adjustment. The so-called body clock gets completely out of synchronisation, due to lack of normal sleep at night, essential for the body's optimal functioning. And at night, it means that workers are expected to be awake and working, at times when their hormonal levels, which regulate the ability to react to any kind of danger, exertion or stress, are too low, thus exposing them to risk and abnormal physical wear and tear.
The car bosses' frantic search for profits on the backs of workers was expressed by the British bosses of BMW a few years ago, in a crude but accurate way, as follows: "Capital productivity is vital. We are making our assets sweat through introducing flexible shifts." Of course, the status of workers is no higher than the status of machines for the car bosses!
In 1998, when BMW wanted to get its Cowley plant to operate for a minimum of 96 hours per week in the context of a 37-hour week, rather than investing in new machinery and without introducing a 3rd shift or paying for more overtime, it brought in the so-called "working time account".
This allowed them to get workers to work over the 37-hour mark, and "bank" these extra hours which were then used as time off if production was slack so that on an average worked out over "up to 36 months", the working week was not over 37 hours. Four days of 9 hours 45 minutes each, on alternating early and late shifts (the late shift finishing at around 2am!) were introduced, with a fifth day to be worked depending on "production needs". Compulsory "catchback" hours required that workers also worked their breaks or worked extra time at the end of shift, if for whatever reason, production targets had not been met or if they were increased. Ever since, this system has been in force at Cowley, although modified regularly, to suit the company's needs. For instance BMW has just introduced a night shift lasting 11 and 3/4 hours, to replace the "late" shift for three days a week!
This kind of flexibility in working hours operates almost everywhere in the car industry today - except in some Ford plants, where overtime paid at a premium is still used (for the time being) to "make up" production scores.
The legislation limiting the working week to 48 hours, which came into force eventually in 1998, has been no protection for workers. It allows the bosses to average hours over 15 weeks and even longer, if a collective agreement is signed to this effect. Besides, Britain's opt-out from the EU working-time directive, which is likely to stay in place, ensures that workers can be pressurised into signing a waiver which allows employers to go beyond the 48-hour limit. And considering that the current DTI Working Time consultation paper suggests that people can work up to 78 hours a week and possibly longer if they "take a rest at another time", future changes in the law are hardly likely to be favourable to workers.
Naturally this conforms with the opinion of the car bosses. As the Toyota UK board said in its submission to the government this July, "Although used sparingly, we firmly believe that the WTD Opt Out should remain optional for all members [as Toyota calls its workers] This option is essential for us to maintain our commitment to our permanent members throughout variations of model and production cycles."
There have been a few disputes over the issue of working hours recently - and from unexpected places. For instance in July 2003, 400 workers at Aston Martin (which is owned by Ford) staged their first strike ever, when they were told that they would have a new so-called "Martini" flexible shift system introduced, which would require them to work "any time, any place, anywhere". These workers already had the distinction of working the longest hours of any in Ford's Premier Automotive Group. At the Honda Swindon plant, where a similar regime to that in BMW's Cowley plant exists, a year-long dispute against compulsory overtime at the end the late shift ended in December with a concession by Honda to limit this compulsory overtime to one hour only - but not when there are new model launches. This has predictably been hailed as a "breakthrough" by the union Amicus, but whether the workforce will feel the same way is another matter.
A pliable government... for the bosses
The government has demonstrated its willingness to aid and abet the increased exploitation of workers in every way that it can, ever since it came into power and the DTI's "Automotive Unit" bends over backwards to satisfy the bosses' desires and justify their turn of the screw.
So, for instance, when asked during the Trade and Industry Select Committee on the British car industry this year, about the way that the British "flexible labour market" allowed bosses to sack workers more easily in the UK, Sarah Chambers had this to say:
"It is important for companies to know that they can take on extra workers without necessarily being saddled with keeping them forever... Maybe the obvious company at the moment is Peugeot which took on a fourth shift about 18 months ago because they had to meet some extra demand for its very, very successful 206 and the new variants of that. It has recently announced that the fourth shift is no longer necessary and they will have to let some of these workers go. If two years ago we had had a very rigid labour market, I do not think it would have ever taken on that fourth shift, so we would have lost 18 months worth of extra production, it would have gone somewhere else and the UK would have lost out. The balance of the argument is that flexibility is a good thing but it needs to be kept within bounds."
In other words, says Labour, workers have to be "flexible" in order to make themselves (or rather their sweat) attractive to bosses. But where are the "bounds" that Sarah Chambers speaks about? So far, this government has never introduced any "bounds" to limit the bosses' greed. But it does maintain bounds on the ability for workers to defend themselves against this greed - for instance by retaining most of Thatcher's anti-strike legislation.
Besides, the working class has good reason to take this government to task over its idea of "flexibility". Why is it that only workers have to be flexible but never the bosses? Why is it that companies as rich as Ford or BMW cannot be expected to use their mountains of profits to provide decent conditions for their workforces and to guarantee jobs to all the workers who have contributed in building up these profit mountains, regardless of the circumstances? Flexibility should go both ways if it exists at all, shouldn't it?
Not only does the government encourage the bosses' turn of the screw rhetorically, but it funds it with taxpayers' money, under the pretext of encouraging investment.
So, for instance, for its Dagenham Engine plant, Ford was able to use the "rivalry" of foreign plants for the new DV engine to get the government to come up with a generous subsidy. And of course, it did. While Ford claims to be investing £169m for the new engine, the government will provide a direct £4.5m subsidy and the London Development Agency and Learning and Skills Council an additional £13.2m in training grants! Something that Amicus official Tony Murphy hailed by stating: "This is great news for Ford Dagenham. The unions and the company have been working jointly for years to secure this grant to build diesel engines. This investment will create quality manufacturing jobs and guarantees the future of Dagenham for years to come." Never mind the fact that the number of these "quality jobs" may well shrink over the coming years, that they will be paid for by the workforce through a worsening of their working conditions and that some, if not all of them will be temporary "quality jobs"!
But Ford also had additional hand-outs in 2004: £5m to "help secure" 700 jobs in its Halewood's transmission plant, a grant of £23m from the Welsh Regional Development Agency for a new assembly line at its Bridgend engine plant, on top of the £86m already given to its subsidiary Jaguar over the past few years!
The government says it has this year made £100m available to the car industry in regional aid. In addition it provides a free consultancy service (the Manufacturing Advisory Service) at a cost of £80m to the taxpayer, for small to medium size companies (component plants, for instance, like Welbeck Steel which supplies the car industry) to help them maximise profits by introducing "lean production" methods - in other words, among other things to squeeze their workers more effectively.
Of course, this government has always prided itself in being "non-interventionist" and insisted, therefore, that it would not return to the policy of previous Labour governments which provided generous subsidies to private businesses. But there are pretexts which are considered "legitimate" for breaking these rules.
One of these pretexts is "promoting job creation", as illustrated above. Another, which has become very fashionable lately in government circles, is training, whereby state agencies help reduce the so-called "skills shortage" by literally taking over the responsibility for organising and funding the training of apprentices, technicians and engineers.
Of course, whether the "quality" jobs are available for all these skilled workers is quite another question. All through the mid- to late 1990s, for instance, Ford had newly qualified skilled workers working in non-skilled jobs on Dagenham Fiesta assembly lines because it had cut back so heavily on skilled jobs in its plants, when it had not subcontracted them, that there were no positions available. It then duly cut back on its training programme, as did all the large manufacturing companies, which used to provide (albeit already subsidised) apprenticeships. So now, lo and behold, there is a skills shortage! The "solution" has been the setting up of the Automotive Academy in 2003, funded partly by Regional Development Agencies and the Learning and Skills Council.
Another similar project is the £100m government-funded "Foresight Vehicle" project (launched in 1996), which is supposed to bring engineering experts together in order to act as a pool of knowledge and "technology roadmap" for car companies so that they can be updated "on the cutting edge of technology" and so "safeguard the future of the British car industry". This no doubt "helps them out" by saving on their own research...
Workers can only rely on themselves
When Steve Hart, senior regional industrial organiser for the T&G was asked to give evidence to the Trade and Industry's commission on the car industry in July 2004, the main problem he identified with the car industry was the lack of "British" companies, with the exception of the perhaps soon-to-be gone MG Rover. "Can you imagine France dispensing with Renault, Peugeot or Citroën? Of course not. Britain should be shouting from the rooftops, actively saying we want our industry here and have a degree of preference and support for jobs, highly efficient British workers, making British cars in this country." He also asked why the government does not any longer seem to insist that its own procurement is "British-made". In addition, the usual complaint was made that car bosses find it too easy to close British plants because of lack of compulsory union consultation and poorer provisions for redundancy, as opposed to the rest of the EU - which may have been true of Germany and France but not Belgium, and this is rapidly changing.
So while the car bosses and government representatives discussed flexibility for the workforce and what else they had up their sleeves to screw workers more effectively, Mr Hart was only interested in flying the British flag. Besides the fact that this kind of refrain is an almost exact echo of the 1970s, when the then nationalised British Leyland produced the largest car volume in the country, today it is hardly relevant when all the significant companies in the industry are international operators. The truth is that the union machineries have nothing to say or propose against the ever-increasing exploitation of the workers they are meant to represent in the car industry.
At the end of the day the unions' policy is to beg the government to be more protectionist, to encourage "British investment" and to give even more subsidies to companies! To quote the T&G's Woodley in a recent speech entitled "Manufacturing Matters": "At present we have the lowest support for manufacturing in Europe - thirty per cent less than anywhere else. Let's make manufacturing part of the policy remit of the Bank of England and the Regional Development Agencies."
As if the working class had anything to expect from a government which for the past seven years has demonstrated again and again its servility towards the bosses! Of course, for the union leaders, any pretext, any lure that can help to convince their members that there is no need for a fight back, is a godsend. But their policies have been costing the working class in general and car workers in particular far too much over the past years. If the car giants can get away with killing line workers on the job with shifts lasting 10 hours or more today, more than a hundred years after the British working class adopted the 8-hour day as its slogan, it is not due to any economic necessity, let alone to "foreign competition", it is due to the fact that the greed of the bosses has remained unchallenged for too long.
The entire working class is undermined by the same kind of attacks. But workplaces are often small and scattered. Not so for the car industry. Car production is one of the few industries in which the concentration of workers in large factories around the country's major cities could allow them to mount an effective fight back against the bosses' turn of the screw. Not only do car workers have the industrial muscle and the collective strength to make the car giants fear for their profits, but they also have the numbers and the prestige necessary to pull behind them large sections of the working class in other industries, in a joint counter-offensive against the bosses' attacks.
Of course, such a counter-offensive will not come from union leaders who are terrified by the idea of workers taking their interests into their own hands and giving the bosses the dressing-down they deserve. If such a counter-offensive is to take place, it will have to be organised by rank-and-file workers themselves, by finding from within their own ranks the leaders they need - activists whose aim is not to brush shoulders with bosses and ministers in committee rooms, but to fight for the interests of their fellow workers and to submit themselves to their control.