Shame on you Heseltine, you’re failing the British workforce

Michael Heseltine is still playing power politics, throwing his weight behind the electorally-attractive call for the minimum wage to be raised and claiming it will help solve the productivity gap – that unavoidable measure the government avoids looking at, showing just how much less your British worker produces in comparison to other countries in terms of both efficiency of labour and capital.

Last year hourly output by our UK workers fell 17 per cent below the average of other leading European nations and widened to its largest gap since 1992 against other G7 nations, the remaining nations all showing a growth in productivity. 

Heseltine argues that hiking the level would raise billions for the treasure in additional taxes and solve the productivity puzzle for the government as to why we Brits are failing to achieve productivity growth.

Lots of reasons are attributed to causing improvements of productivity – capital investment being one and the lack of bank lending has hit British businesses hard. For manufacturing this has meant many are unable or fearful of investing in machinery, research and development that would make us more competitive and up our personal productivity output. The economy has clearly played a huge part leaving the general populace fearful, workforce and business leaders alike.

Quite how Heseltine foresees that a higher wage bill is going to enable the British business owner to spend more on investment and R&D, I cannot compute.

The overregulation of industry and commerce affecting competition is undoubtedly another factor affecting a beleaguered Britain, again, particularly its manufacturing side with ever increasing Brussels imposed HR and Health and Safety. Will higher wages enable us to cope better with these? Not remotely.

Then we have the skill shortage in this country which is simply appalling and crippling many industries, once again especially manufacturing and technology. Will paying people more, morph the workforce into higher skills? No Heseltine, it will not.

But the real rub comes for the great British public whose votes he is gunning for. On the one hand he is aiming to collect those who want to earn more (and who can blame them), and on the other – justify it by the extra tax they are going to pay adding to the coffers of the land. In other words, the difference in the man on the street’s pocket is going to be considerably less than would appear.

And finally – for some, yes that difference is going to be a massive help (ignoring the obvious that it will spill into a succession of inflationary rises across the board that will render the rise meaningless).

But is money the key motivating factor in inspiring the staff to productivity? Yes, you have to take the money off the table, by paying enough. But people value what they do, the power of freedom over their own lives, or at least input into decisions, they value training, and seeing the point of what they do. All the money in the world cannot make a motivational difference to a lack of these.

The productivity puzzle will be solved by a stable economy, serious availability of funds to businesses for R&D and radical and yet to be seen governmental addressing of the appalling skills gap in this country. Not to mention some radical change by some of its jobsworth workforce who believe that customers are irrelevant.

So not only am I unimpressed with Heseltine’s wild misrepresentations – I would go further and say shame on you; in a vote catching nonsense, a politician I once respected totally failing the British workforce and employers alike.

Image: Shutterstock

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