Labour and industrial authority : social and industrial relations in the Australian Stevedoring Industry 1800-1935

Morgan, David E. (1998). Labour and industrial authority : social and industrial relations in the Australian Stevedoring Industry 1800-1935 PhD Thesis, School of Political Science and International Studies, The University of Queensland.

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Author Morgan, David E.
Thesis Title Labour and industrial authority : social and industrial relations in the Australian Stevedoring Industry 1800-1935
School, Centre or Institute School of Political Science and International Studies
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1998
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Total pages 602
Language eng
Subjects 150306 Industrial Relations
Formatted abstract
This thesis examines the Australian stevedoring industry during the period in which modern work systems emerged, from last decades of the nineteenth century to the 1930s Depression. It is a single-case embedded case-study - that is, a case-study analysis employs multiple units of analysis directed at building an explanation. Using  this method, the study also traces key components of the British maritime industry and their influence in nineteenth century colonial Australia. The central question is; what was the relationship between the shape of work organisation and the production process and industrial relations in the Australian stevedoring industry?

The thesis falls broadly into a labour process perspective. It develops a theoretical framework concerned with the nature of organisation (of the production process and company unit, workplace, labour market and production market), the practices of organising (in the workplace, community, unionisation) and the exercise of power and authority (in the workplace, managerial and industrial relations systems, and social norms). It is a study of an industry characterised by unskilled work. The analysis looks at the emergence of stevedoring as a 'modern industry' and its technical, organisational and industrial connections with shipping.

The findings indicate that the technology and methods employed in the stevedoring labour process became increasingly inconsistent with the organisation and demands of shipping companies and the shipping production process after the widespread introduction of steam shipping in the 1880s. While technological change reconstructed the water transport production process and the shipping labour process, work organisation on the waterfront remained largely unchanged over the period from 1880 to the 1930s depression. Thus the labour process conditions for the informal labour and workplace practice on the waterfront remained, but clashed with the organisational demands of shipping. Shipping moved from a dispersed and discontinuous organisational form centred on individual vessels, to a coordinated organisational form in its early period of industrialisation based on the capitalist company from the 1860s, and finally to an integrated organisational form of the modern firm after the 1890s.

The conditions needed for authority relations in a formal system of industrial relations were arrested to varying degrees. Management systems and union structures remained undeveloped, union strategy was inconsistent, product markets were small, informal workplace relations and action persisted, and the formal arbitration system was unable to overcome the resultant problems. Thus the industry was characterised by industrial disputation and conflict, with the superior capacity of employers to coordinate their labour policy resulting in a cycle of defeat for waterside workers.
Keyword Stevedores -- Australia -- History
Labor movement -- Australia -- History
Industrial relations -- Australia -- History
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