Creating a new way of working based on trust
A Blue Circle Cement case study

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Page 3: The new vision

Blue Circle Cement 2 Image 5The result of this research, fact finding, analysis and discussion was the creation of a new vision of how the business units could run. The shared vision for the future was to have a highly skilled and flexible workforce, working as an integrated team which, together with the new technology, would be able to compete with the best in the world. Key elements of this new vision were:

  • Enhanced skills for individuals with a reduction in the number of job grades, leading to greater flexibility.
  • Introduction of a simple pay structure with the elimination of paid overtime and bonuses and increased basic wage levels.
  • Significantly reduced manning levels and a reduction in total labour cost.

It was decided that the new working practices would be developed into an employment package called Integrated Working and the Stable Income Plan - or in brief Integrated Working. These approaches were to be trialled at the new plant at Cauldon and at Dunbar before becoming part of overall organisational structure throughout Blue Circle Cement. The development of Integrated Working involved a twin track approach. There were negotiations on matters of broad principle at group level with national trade union officials, and discussions of substance and detail at works level with local managers and shop stewards. In practice, communication, flexibility and interchange of personnel between the two levels helped in reaching agreement. The features of integrated working include :

  • An annual hours contract.
  • The reduction in job categories from 14 to 3. Jobs are now defined far more broadly than in the past. The three broad categories are process operator, senior process operator and craft worker. This has meant that each employee has been expected to learn and develop new skills through a training programme.
  • A new teamworking approach. The ability of everyone to work together and have mutual respect was considered essential to the development of the new culture. This has involved a considerable resource implication in terms of developing teamwork skills through training, including the training of team leaders.
  • A joint (management and union) review of the system on a regular basis in order to seek continuous improvements.

The features of the Stable Income Plan

Blue Circle Cement 2 Diagram 2In order to create a new environment based on trust it was important to give employees a new package based on a secure income. The Stable Income Plan was based on the premise that: Employees were to be paid for 2,250 hours a year. This is made up of 2,028 hours worked in a seven shift system and a bank of 222 flexi-hours which have to be worked only if there is an operational need.

This system is based on a Fixed Constant Salary. From the management point of view this had the advantage that labour costs were predictable. In addition, the system encouraged employees to be motivated in their work and go home when their shift was completed, thus effectively breaking the previous blue collar ethos of prolonging the job to boost overtime earnings.

Employees were expected to work to a pattern of full shifts, thus taking responsibility and hence accountability for work done during that shift.

Blue Circle Cement | Creating a new way of working based on trust
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