There are various participants in the workplace, namely, external and internal stakeholders. The external participants are customers, suppliers and the community. Internal participants are owners, blue-collar workers and white-collar workers. These participants have different roles, responsibilities and relationships with the workplace and with each other. The contemporary structure of reward and recognition is disproportionate with the contribution of various stakeholders. In terms of this structure the higher the contribution the lower the rewards and vice versa.
Customers are consumers of workplace products therefore the reason for existence of the enterprise. Suppliers provide critical ingredients for products while the owner provides the capital to start the workplace. Owners are rewarded through dividends and surplus extraction methods. The community regulates workplace behaviour through legislation and taxes. It further provides common infrastructure and platforms to conduct business. It is rewarded through taxes and other corporate social responsibility programs. Their relationship with production is clear and their contribution is measurable although the fair value question remains.
The blue-collar workers are real creators of value. They are the makers of products and in the workplace frontline and yet the least recognised, rewarded and appreciated category of participants. Workplaces that break the common architecture of exploitation and adopt empowerment structure of reward and recognition experiences high levels of productivity and innovation. Productivity and innovation increases revenue and decreases expenditure which is good for every production force.
Control of the means of production and workplaces use to be with the owning class. It is still the case in small and medium size organisations where they are closely associated to white-collar workers. White-collar workers design, develop and maintain business processes. It is through these roles that the white-collar worker has wrestled control of the means of production from the owners. White-collar workers are tasked with matters of thinking and innovation as they are viewed to be the technocratic layer of the workplace. They are expected to improve productivity through efficient processes, safety and reduce costs for all workplace stakeholders.
The basic observation will however indicate that this production force (white-collar workers) do not do what it is paid to do. Its major focus is on ways to rob other workplace participants through unjustified high prices to consumers, absurd low price demand from suppliers, tax avoidance, and unreasonable pay of low wages to blue-collar workers and systematic sucking of owners’ equity through fruitless capital expenditure.
It is also a norm that the owners collude with white-collar workers in this robbery. It is therefore glaring that blue-collar workers are the only internal production force that has a vested interest in fundament transformation of the workplace and must as such take responsibility to organise themselves to seize power for the benefit of workplace and society as a whole. This can only be achieved through developing visionary blue-collar worker leadership and restructuring the enterprise architecture, especially ownership and control modes.
By Sbusiso Xaba