In the 1970s, it was said the U.K. automakers that has joined together as government-owned British Leyland produced some of the worst cars ever to leave an assembly line. A running joke was that autoworkers would stand in picket lines more often than they would stand in assembly lines. They’d picket if the wind happened to blow from a different direction than normal.
It seems that sense of national pride and an appreciation for history hasn’t left the British people, even some 40 years later. Just this week, the Liverpool Daily Post is reporting assembly line workers at the Jaguar Land Rover plant in Halewood, England got fed up over empty water coolers, of all things, and decided to walk out from their duties until they were refilled.
“It shows some kind of lack of common sense,” says Damian Waters, a regional director of the Confederation of British Industries.
“Stories like this would generate cause for concern.”
Waters said it was disappointing to see given the fact that work is hard to come by in the midst of a recession, and the Halewood plant being one of the great success stories of British industry. To make matters worse, Jaguar Land Rover wasn’t even responsible for the gaffe. No, blame that on shipping company DHL for being underprepared for the warm climates and the heightened demand for water cooler delivery.
“The operators sat in the canteen for half an hour while this happened and returned to work once the water supply was restored,” says DHL spokesperson Simon Maris.
JLR declined to comment, but said the work stoppage had no significant effect in the company’s daily output. We call shenanigans, citing that an idle 3,500 workers (soon to be 4,500 after an announcement this month the plant would be expanding to a third shift) would likely cost an hour or more of downtime between setup and getting going for assembling the Land Rover LR2 and Range Rover Evoque for world consumption. Demand for those two vehicles have far outstripped supply at this point, and JLR can’t afford to sit on its hands to wait for some child-like behavior for employees to pout about lack of water.
The British may have a proud history of protesting, but a 30-minute wait on water shouldn’t have been enough to sabotage productivity. Because, face it, if you told your boss you weren’t going to work until your coffee pot was fixed, your microwave could actually bake a potato in 4 minutes, or your water was delivered and installed in the U.S., your boss would probably just laugh at you. Then, you’d probably get fired.
Source: Liverpool Daily Post