Technical change and industrial relations are becoming inextricably linked together. There is a need for a clearsighted understanding of all the effects of technical change at the workplace. This would entail a conceptual framework in which the interaction between social and technical factors could be properly identified. At establishment level the innovation process typically involves a balancing of the social, economic and technological vectors of change. Three short case studies into the innovation process at one of the key manufacturing plants of a major British vehicle producer are presented, examining a Machine Monitoring System, Team Working and Maintenance Function. It is clear that the linked issues of work practices and labour productivity which are to the forefront of workplace industrial relations exert a significant impact on the economic consequences of technical change. Where technological innovation involves significant change in work practices, such change will be facilitated when the forms of co‐operation it demands and the costs and benefits it creates are congruent with the respective power and policies of management and unions.
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