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Shop-floor bargaining and the struggle for job control in the British automobile and aerospace industries 1950-1982

Richardson, M. and Stewart, Paul and Danford, Andrew (2011) Shop-floor bargaining and the struggle for job control in the British automobile and aerospace industries 1950-1982. In: A business and labour history of Britain. Palgrave McMillan. ISBN 9780230280922

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Abstract

In the UK automobile and aerospace industries, the struggle over job control and rewards for labour expended in the production process was particularly intense in the period of steady economic growth, high and stable employment, and low inflation, following the Second World War. This struggle reached its zenith during a phase of increasing output in the 1950s and early 1960s. By the late 1960s, however, as wages and unemployment began to rise and the rate of growth slowed there was a discernible shift in management industrial relations strategy and efforts by government to curb the authority and influence of shop-stewards. Despite disparities both between and within these respective industries, particularly the higher skill levels required by the aerospace sector, common experiences of the transformation of labour conditions of work are noticeable. In mapping some key historical struggles of automobile and aerospace workers against management forms of authority and control, it should be possible to distinguish the critical dynamics prevalent in both industries. Knowledge of the trajectory of labour relations and the pattern and character of conflict is critical to understanding and accounting for continuity and change in the social relations of production.