Skills and trade unions

Alastair J. Reid

in The Tide of Democracy

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print May 2010 | ISBN: 9780719081033
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702949 | DOI:
Skills and trade unions

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As a result of the low level of management control over the labour force, the detailed division of tasks in shipbuilding fell largely into the hands of the industry's craftsmen. Employers had no direct control over training, little power to enforce their preferred payment systems, and when new technology was introduced its manning was generally determined by demarcation disputes between the stronger craft unions. Not only were the employers hampered by a lack of unity, but a majority among them recognised that, given their market situation, product types, and devolved management systems, the economic gains of a major confrontation with the craft unions were likely to be marginal. This assessment is broadly confirmed by a preliminary analysis of the relationship between trade unions and labour productivity in the industry which indicates that, rather than increases in union strength being accompanied by decreases in productivity, both union strength and productivity tended to increase together in periods of increased demand and output.

Keywords: shipbuilding industry; management control; labour force; craftsmen; craft unions; labour productivity; trade unions

Chapter.  6387 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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