Nothing gets done and no one knows why: PCS and workplace control of lean in HM Revenue and Customs

Bob Carter, Andy Danford, Debra Howcroft, Helen Richardson, Andrew Smith, Philip Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines the willingness and capacity of public sector unions to mobilise action against changes in the labour process in order to maintain some measure of control at the point of production. Taking as an instance an extended dispute in Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs over the introduction and impact of Lean processes, it marshals evidence gathered from documentary sources, branch representatives and national lay full-time officers to engage with the notion of a trade union bureaucracy. In taking a union with a left-wing leadership and a section with 80 per cent membership with an expressed willingness to escalate industrial action, the article tests Hyman's 1979 contention that, rather than a concentration on a bureaucratic caste, a much better explanation for conservatism centres on the nature of social relations within the union that encompass a wider layer of representatives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)416-432
Number of pages17
JournalIndustrial Relations Journal
Issue number5
Early online date20 Sept 2012
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2012


  • lean production
  • work organisation
  • trade union
  • public sector
  • labour process
  • workplace control
  • hm revenue and customs


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