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The Tide of DemocracyShipyard Workers and Social Relations in Britain, 1870-1950$
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Alastair J. Reid

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780719081033

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719081033.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MANCHESTER SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.manchester.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Manchester University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MSO for personal use.date: 24 July 2021

Management and labour

Management and labour

(p.33) 2 Management and labour
The Tide of Democracy

Alastair J. Reid

Manchester University Press

This chapter discusses the lack of close management control of labour in shipbuilding, which is attributed to the nature of the industry's product. Its scale and variety made the overall supervision of assembly virtually impossible, while its complexity made the close control of the pace of work on particular tasks very difficult. As a result, the shipbuilding labour force was still characterised in the middle of the twentieth century by a set of independent attitudes towards work normally thought of as ‘pre-industrial’. Although yard owners had the power that came from winning contracts and purchasing tools and raw materials, their lack of any real control over labour meant that they were dependent on a significant level of voluntary cooperation in the day-to-day business of production. This informal partnership may have become harder to maintain in the face of increasing foreign competition and the need for radical changes in production methods after the Second World War, but had it never existed it seems unlikely that any ships would have been built in Britain during the period of this study.

Keywords:   British shipbuilding industry, management control, labour force, work attitude

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