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Can employment restructuring be implemented responsibly? A case study of SteelCo's 'Socially Responsible Restructuring' process

McLachlan, Christopher John (2017) Can employment restructuring be implemented responsibly? A case study of SteelCo's 'Socially Responsible Restructuring' process. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

This thesis contributes to knowledge about, and understanding of, the implementation of responsible approaches to employment restructuring. The empirical focus is a case study of a UK steel plant (SteelCo) and a restructuring process involving the removal of 1700 jobs across two restructuring programmes from the period 2011-2015. Management described its approach to restructuring as ‘socially responsible restructuring’ (SRR). The central argument of the research is the thesis that the concept of responsible restructuring is more appropriately characterised by a best fit approach that recognises contexts such as the contingencies of local organisational and institutional factors, the particularities of industrial relations, the histories of restructuring and the occupational identity of the workforce. The thesis also presents a conceptual framework that utilises four categories of responsibility based on a synthesis of the prevailing literature that reflects the ways that responsible approaches to restructuring has been researched currently. These categories of responsibility are identified as the regulatory, procedural, communication and employment responsibilities. The research thus explores the rationale, processes, practices, interactions and dynamics of SteelCo’s putative SRR process. The findings identify three contextual variables most pertinent to the implementation of SteelCo’s SRR process. Firstly, the role of trade unions in both supporting affected employees through the restructuring, and the HR team in the design and delivery of the process, suggests that although the unions’ involvement represents an accommodation to management’s decision to restructure, unions can maintain a positive role in the management of change. Secondly, historical, long existing restructuring practices were reframed and repackaged by management through a rhetoric of ‘being responsible’, suggesting that a responsible restructuring strategy offers management a way to legitimise the implementation of an employment restructuring process. Lastly, the findings demonstrate how social, cultural, material and experiential factors associated with the steelworker occupational identity meant that employees had internalised the experience of restructuring. That is, dealing with restructuring and its effects was met with a degree of equanimity by employees, as it had become part of what it meant to work at SteelCo. Following this, the thesis calls for greater attention to be paid to the experiences of a new analytical category of inbetweeners, as employees who fall within the interstices of victim and survivor status.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: industrial relations; human resource management; restructuring; responsibility; steel industry
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Leeds University Business School > Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.736488
Depositing User: Dr Christopher John McLachlan
Date Deposited: 06 Mar 2018 11:19
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2018 09:56
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/19562

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