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Americanisation in 20th Century Europe: business, culture, politics. Volume 2

 | 
Nick Tiratsoo
, 
Mathias Kipping

Bargained Americanisation: workplace militancy and union exclusion c. 1945-1974

Bill Knox et Alan Mckinlay

Résumé

L’Écosse centrale fut une destination majeure pour les investissements américains directs entre 1945 et 1974. Ces derniers concernèrent avant tout la construction électrique et mécaniques, deux secteurs négligés dans un débat sur l’américanisation dominé par des discussions sur la construction automobile. Pareillement, sont négligées les stratégies anti syndicales des multinationales américaines. Des entreprises comme IBM réussirent à exclure totalement les syndicats, tandis que dans d’autres cas, là où les entreprises américaines furent obligées d’accepter les syndicats, on assiste à une tentative résolue pour limiter l’influence de leurs représentants. Cet article analyse ces stratégies et montre que les options choisies furent déterminantes dans les stratégies de régulation du travail sur le long terme.

Texte intégral

  • 1 Alan McKinlay wishes to acknowledge the support of the Economic and Social Research Council, UK (G (...)
  • 2 J. Zeitlin, “Americanizing British Engineering? Strategic Debate, Selective Adaptation, and Hybrid (...)

1The recent and ever-growing debate on the impact of Americanisation on British business practice and operational methods has opened up new areas of historical investigation.1 Institutional factors, such as the role of the State, have acquired new prominence in assessments of post-1945 British economic performance. Lower economic growth rates and poorer industrial performance relative to major European economies and Japan have been explained by a diverse range of historians as attributable to the failure to adopt American management and production techniques. British managers’ resistance to these more advanced techniques is seen as myopie and misguided. Johnathan Zeitlin, particular, has dismissed such summary judgements as deterministic, nationalist and mythologising of American industry as a paradigm of best practice. Far from being resistant to change, Zeitlin insists that British managers, operating in very difficult economic circumstances, were highly innovative adopting “transatlantic techniques” that were then “selectively grafted on to indigenous manufacturing practices”.2

2Zeitlin is correct to point to the deficiencies in the debates about the ‘Americanisation’ of British and European industry. However, Zeitlin’s approach also suffers from being overly institutional and accepting of a top-down view of the process of adaptive or incremental change. Critically, the debate has also been restricted to engineering-particularly car manufacturing-omitting discussion of other sectors of the economy that were open to American influence, for example, food and drink, textiles and clothing. Our account aims to open up two complementary fronts in the Americanisation debate. First, apart from the long-established UK subsidiaries of Ford and General Motors, the post-1945 arrival of other major US corporations has barely registered in the debate. The irony is that it is precisely the surge of post-war American inward investment that one would expect to register the ‘purest’ form of Americanised manufacture. Our second objective is to highlight the role of organised labour in the domestication of American firms. Across the differing positions in the debate, there is consensus that adaptation was triggered by managerial decision-making within established industrial and market constraints. We accept the broad thrust of this consensus. The danger is that the debate pivots exclusively on managerial decision-making and neglects labour as an active, creative force in the re-making of the American model in British industry.

  • 3 W. W. Knox and A. McKinlay, “Working for the Yankee Dollar: American Inward Investment and Scottis (...)

3Our aim in this chapter is to offer a corrective to a debate that has been dominated by discussions of managerial techniques and decisions and by neutral accounts of production processes and technological Systems. Such a corrective forces us to consider other dimensions of the American model: the strategic use of corporate paternalism, the cultivation of internal labour markets, and aggressive anti-trade unionism. Local employer association and trade union records allows us to explore day-to-day workplace accommodation and resistance to corporate industrial relations strategies.3 The most volatile forms of hybridization were triggered not by managerial choices about technology and production Systems but by challenges from the labour force and their representatives.

  • 4 J. H. Dunning, American Investment in British Manufacturing, London, Allen & Unwin, 1958, p.58; P.(...)
  • 5 R. F. Miskell (ed.), US Private and Government Investment Abroad, Portland OR, University of Orego (...)
  • 6 See Board of Trade, “Location of Firms: Reasons”, 1951, BT177/370, PRO.

4The location of our study is Central Scotland. The choice is not one determined by convenience but by the sheer volume of American investment pouring into to this part of Britain in the period 1945-1974. Between 1945 and 1970 Central Scotland was the recipient of the greatest inflow of American direct investment in the world, outside Canada.4 Major American firms such as IBM, Caterpillar, Hoover, Kodak, NCR and Timex all established production facilities before 1968. These firms were initially drawn to Britain by restrictions on dollar imports to Britain and the Commonwealth and then by the need to locate inside the Common Market.5 The reasons why US corporate investment was so concentrated in this part of Scotland were more diffuse: regional aid combined with a political willingness to short-circuit Whitehall decision-making; the serendipity of Scottish forebears among visiting executives; and a plentiful supply of skilled engineers and labour accustomed to the disciplines of mass production.6

managing production and personnel

  • 7 US Consul, Edinburgh to Department of State, 17 October 1949, RG59/250/37/33/2, US National Archiv (...)

5Labor is being attracted to these new industries not by offering higher wages than are paid in the jute industry or shorter hours of work, but because, in line with American practice, these new factories are so attractive in appearance, in their lighting, in their ventilation and in their heating, that workers prefer employment there than to working in the dingy unattractive environment of a jute mill.7

  • 8 Scottish Council (Development and Industry), Opportunities for Industrial Development inScotland., (...)
  • 9 S. Jacoby, Employing Bureaucracy: Managers, Unions and the Transformation of Work in American Indu (...)
  • 10 D. Forsyth, US Investment in Scotland, New York, Praeger, 1972, p. 160.

6The first major wave of American firms arrived in the late 1940s and early 1950s and included IBM, Greenock, and NCR, Dundee. Most were in the field of light mechanical engineering, but electrical engineering and electronics became more important from the mid-1960s. By 1975 the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) could justifiably claim that “Scotland is now the capital of the whole European electronics industry”.8 The early entrants came loaded with ideological baggage that was the product of a strong belief in individualism and managerial autonomy. The insistence on unlimited managerial prerogative was accompanied by an aggressive anti-trade unionism; an attitude that had been forged in the labour conflicts in the first few decades of the Twentieth Century. These conflicts stimulated the construction of innovative corporate labour policies.9 At NCR systematic monitoring of, and more sensitive approaches to, the workforce, had allowed the head of the labour department, Charles U. Carpenter, to boast that he had successfully defeated trade unionism by the mid-1920s. Practically, this had meant transforming NCR’s traditional employment practices by, first, creating a centralised System of hiring and firing; second, codifying rules and grievances procedures; and, finally, consolidating all welfare work under a single administrative unit overseen by Carpenter himself. These were the practices that American firms sought to embed in the British subsidiaries established after 1945. American subsidiaries deployed unusually detailed employment contracts, specifying not just terms and conditions but also the long-term commitments of both parties and arbitration procedures, irrespective of whether or not this involved union representation.10

  • 11 Jacoby 1985:60-64.
  • 12 S. Allyn, NCR, “Address to Scottish Council for Industry”, Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York, 4 Sept (...)

7In 1904, Charles Carpenter of NCR wrote that it “[does] not seem possible to cultivate any better feeling on the part of the employee toward his employer unless some attempt is made to restore the old time ‘personal touch’”.11 Company paternalism was nothing new in Britain as textile employers in Lancashire and Paisley had used it in the Nineteenth Century to improve labour and capital relations, but the American System was subject to cost-benefit analysis. The pursuit of a strategy of corporate welfarism that covered an entire workforce was paralleled by the adoption of scientific management techniques. As Stanley Allyn, President of NCR, put it: “Altruism is not our strong suit”.12 Welfarism operated in a variety of ways, from paying higher wages, to providing fringe benefits, and to participating in charitable projects for the betterment of the communities the US firms were established in. Above all, the objective of corporate welfarism was to reduce the appeal of trade unionism and collective bargaining.

  • 13 Engineering and National Employers’ Federation, Dundee District, to the Board of Trade, 22 Februar (...)
  • 14 Scottish Engineering Employers’ Association to Member Firms, Circular Letter 63-36, 25 January 196 (...)
  • 15 Commission on Industrial Relations, Hoover, Report 11, London, HMSO, 1971, p. 20, 22.
  • 16 Forsyth 1972: 204.

8US multinationals consistently paid above average wages to their employees. Both the high wage strategies of incoming firms and their refusal to be bound by the tacit agreements of local employers drew sharp criticism from British managers. Dundee’s jute and engineering employers were appalled by the erosion of their grip on the local labour market and by NCR’s indifference to the ‘gentleman’s agreement’ that had maintained a leaving note System for over fifty years. That is, only the new American firms would hire new recruits without the written permission of their previous employer.13 US subsidiaries also offered superior non-wage benefits compared to most British firms. Few American firms were prepared to recognise ‘specific differentials’ based on craft status which would have increased both their exposure to external labour market movements and the relevance of trade union representation for their employees.14 US subsidiaries were ambivalent about linking earnings to seniority: they prized stability but were reluctant to endorse a promotions System that inhibited managerial prerogative. Normally, the workforce was graded by skill-completed apprenticeship remained a critical threshold-but was also subject to managerial assessment. In Caterpillar and Hoover, for example, each grade had three wage rates, initially awarded exclusively by management, with no procedural checks and balances. The objective was to construct internal labour markets regulated by managerial definitions of skill. In practice, few US firms were able to sustain this strategy: only IBM came close. Rather, in plants which remained reliant upon key engineering skills such as toolmaking, management were unable to construct a single job ladder. Powerful skilled groups negotiated preferential contracts unattainable to other employees. In Hoover, skilled workers were classified as ‘modified staff’ and paid a guaranteed salary. This created such a division between craft and non-craft workers that one senior manager declared that “they are divided by an iron curtain”.15 For Hoover management, the semi-skilled manual workers saw themselves as “second class citizens”. Fringe benefits also reflected these internal divisions. Despite the range of benefits offered by US subsidiaries, at least one American manager was sceptical of whether high wages had any real impact on underlying employee attitudes: “Industrial relations was adversely affected by the lack of acquisitiveness of the average employee stemming from low level of living standards acceptable to people in a relatively poor area... US firms found it much more difficult than indigenous ones to accept the pervasive lack of enthusiasm for ‘Keeping up with the Jones’”.16

  • 17 IBM, IBM in Scotland, IBM, Greenock, 1987.
  • 18 NCR, “Annual Report”, 1951, Library of Congress Microfiche 443, Washington DC.

9Conscious of the need to win ‘hearts and minds’, corporate welfarism extended beyond the factory gates into the wider community. At any one time up to five employees of IBM were seconded to charitable, voluntary or educational organisations in Scotland.17 Similarly, NCR “actively participates in movements for community betterment. Executives and other employees were encouraged to participate in community development activities”.18 Again, we should be careful of exaggerating the impact of corporate welfarism. One otherwise positive Ministry of Labour official mused:

  • 19 Ministry of Labour, “Personnel Management: Scotland”, 1966, LAB8/564, PRO.

I wonder if it is possible that American Companies may cause irritation to employees by their excessive ‘paternisation’. In this firm one is met at the employees’ entrance with a bank of flowers which spell out ‘Protect our good name’ and every office and section had posters on the same theme. From any point one could see anything from six to twelve of such exhortations.19

  • 20 J. S. Dunning, “US-Owned Manufacturing Affiliates and the Transfer of Managerial Techniques: The B (...)
  • 21 Observer,; 15 February 1959.
  • 22 For example, AEU, Greenock District Committee Minutes, 25 March, 25 July 1953, GCA.

10Innovations in personnel management were introduced almost Wholesale into American plants and their subsidiaries in Britain.20 There were other innovations in the effort-wage bargain and in recruitment strategies. American payments Systems were governed by ‘consultants and planners’ who measured only output and ignored craft status as the basis for establishing pay norms. Equally, the recruitment practices of American companies were distinctive in that they were strategic, systematic and centralised. Recruitment policies discriminated against the hiring of mature craftsmen in favour of younger workers; “people who will learn quickly how to play their part on a production line”.21 A minority of first wave US firms-IBM, Kodak and Playtex-were overt in their refusal to hire active trade unionists.22 The objective was to hire workers who would tie themselves to the American firm and would develop skills unique to that organisation.

  • 23 Board of Trade, Industry Department for Scotland, “Location of Industry: General”, 12 February 196 (...)
  • 24 A.J.S. Watson, Veeder-Root to Board of Trade, “Post War Factory Development by Overseas Firms 1954 (...)

11In the first fifteen years after 1945 incoming US firms reported major gains in labour productivity. In 1958 NCR claimed a productivity gain of 20 per cent in a single year, while Hoover estimated that the workforce was three times as productive in 1958 as in 1947.23 Such impressive productivity gains were only partly triggered by innovations in personnel management, however. Particularly during the first few years of their existence, American branch plants relied heavily on American supplies of partially assembled products. Products designed for the US domestic market were not modified for British, Commonwealth or European markets. Indeed, the US subsidiaries typically re-exported completed products, a practice doubly attractive because they counted as dollar exports and attracted fiscal credits. The American manager of Veeder-Root boasted that “the female operatives employed on precision assembly work... have actually bettered some of the standard times in the factory of our US associate”.24 Similarly, in 1948 Hoover, Cambuslang was a highly mechanised plant producing a short range of standard motors with some limited final assembly:

  • 25 Board of Trade, “Hoover: Investigation and Report”, May 1948, BT177/903, PRO.

The production is carried out by mass production... On another line the motor shafts flow through their different operations until a branch line is met carrying the motor parts; after the combination of both lines the work proceeds until the motor assembly has been completed. This in turn, unites with starter assembly and in a similar manner the progress of the motor is carried out until the complete assembly, final testing, packing and despatch of the commodities through the stores.25

  • 26 Board of Trade, “Application by Hoover”, 31 August 1959, BT177/904, PRO.

12In part, this was due to volume ramp-ups but also to extremely limited product ranges. By the late 1950’s, however, rising volumes and growing product diversification increasingly compromised the integrity of these relatively simple mass production Systems. By the late 1950s Hoover Cambuslang was no longer a single-product factory but also a high volume manufacturer of motors for its sister plants. Improvisation and incremental innovation had hit their limits. To accommodate parallel mass production flows, the Cambuslang plant operated at 150 per cent of capacity, including some sub-assembly work being completed outdoors: “gangways are badly congested, making it difficult to utilise mechanical handling gear while areas normally used to store work in progress have been used to accommodate new plant. Machines now on order cannot be installed unless further inroads are made into remaining storage areas”.26 From the early 1960s productivity reports from US subsidiaries were chequered at best. Gone were the eulogies to skilful, diligent workers, to be increasingly replaced by a management rhetoric that castigated employee resistance and recalcitrance. Volumes of standard products dropped as branch plants increasingly catered for the idiosyncrasies of British, Commonwealth and European markets. Hybridization of the American model came at a price. Management's response was to install bonus Systems to raise productivity, a response that inevitably raised the profile of work organisation and collective bargaining.

  • 27 AEU Greenock district Committee Minutes, 7 October 1953, GCA.

13The installation of mass production rsgimes drew US subsidiary management into conflict with the customs and practices of British skilled workers. From the mid-Nineteenth Century skilled workers in British industry shaped a System of industrial relations underpinned by notions of craft control of wages, workload and task allocation. Craft-based production Systems also devolved much of the work of the American specialist personnel departments to supervisors in touch with craft sensibilities over wages and status. In American-owned plants British engineers were confronted with workload norms and task distribution that were established exclusively by management indifferent to craft sensibilities. As the head of NCR’s methods engineering section made clear: “The company had never agreed to bargain with its employees on the amount of work which was expected of any operator”. Productivity payments also conflicted with historically defined differentials and with the tradition of informal negotiation between work group and supervisor. All this was seen to encourage development of the “bell to bell sweatshop”.27

  • 28 AEU, Dundee District Committee Minutes, 5 and 26 June 1946, Dundee City Archives, Dundee, [hereaft (...)
  • 29 AEU, Greenock District Committee Minutes, 14 September 1949, GCA.

14The initial concentration of American firms in mechanical engineering forced them to recruit extensively among skilled engineers in a tight labour market. Compromise with the trade unions was necessary if only as a means to recruit scarce labour. Given the skill deficit, NCR in Dundee had little choice but to recognise the Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU) in return for the union acting as its recruiting agent.28 Even the more determinedly anti-union stance of Joy Sullivan and IBM was dented by their need for skilled labour. Union cards were passports to employment in the local labour market and as such were held as much for their insurance value than as a token of obligation to the union or the craft community. For this reason, although conscious of management hostility, engineering workers drawn into these new plants often retained their union cards. Over 60 per cent of the workers in Joy Sullivan’s machine shop were union members, a figure comparable with many local factories.29

15Formai co-operation with trade unions, born of necessity, was the hallmark of the industrial relations strategies of the earliest incomers from the US. Management strategy was to minimise the role of shop stewards in the daily negotiations about contracts and work organisation. From 1955, however, shop stewards were forced to confront the corporations if they wished to embed their presence in the new workplaces. The resuit was a deeply embedded adversarialism. Second wave American firms clustered in electrical engineering and electronics, so reducing their dependence on traditional engineering skills.

confrontation and resistance

  • 30 Scottish Trades Union Congress, General Council Minutes, 22 June 1973, p. 1289, Glasgow Caledonian (...)
  • 31 T. Dickson, H. McLachlan, P. Prior and K. Swales, ‘Big Blue and the Unions: IBM, Individualism and (...)

16The American belief in extracting ‘value for money’ from the labour force has given rise to many disputes.30 There was a clear divide between American firms that developed comprehensive, robust internal labour markets – IBM and Kodak – and others that relied on external labour markets – Caterpillar and Hoover. The development of internal labour markets insulated the IBM and Kodak workforces from fluctuations in regional labour markets and increased the firm-specific nature of skill and earnings. During the start up phase, IBM was heavily reliant on skilled engineering labour to install the new capital equipment and to modify American product specifications. This dependency was short-lived, however. Using highly selective hiring policies, the firm employed its handpicked skilled workers to train non-skilled operators. As only the plant’s internal labour market validated and rewarded their skills these workers were tied to IBM. This broke IBM’s dependence on the local skilled labour market, which was regulated by craft unionism. Initially, the AEU had a shadowy presence inside IBM. In 1954 the AEU had 40 members employed in IBM Greenock, approximately 10 per cent of the workforce. However, the plant’s five AEU shop stewards were scattered, had no contact with each other and offered no platform for a recruitment campaign. Under threat of dismissal, IBM employees were prohibited from discussing individual contracts. Gradually, the always tenuous des between the IBM workforce and the union withered away. IBM had effectively halted attempts by the AEU to unionise the Greenock plant. In 1974, 90 per cent of the workforce rejected union recognition in an independent referendum organised by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service.31 IBM did, however, make one telling concession to address workforce demands for representation. IBM Greenock’s ‘Labour Code’ supplemented corporate guidelines that allowed for individual voice mechanisms with a quasi-representative elected works council.

17The development of internal labour markets was only one form of the Americanisation of employment relationships. Firms more heavily reliant on skilled workers, such as Caterpillar and Hoover, were compelled to recognise trade unions and the formalities of factory level collective bargaining while seeking to minimise the depth of the bargaining processes. In practice, this meant the exclusion of shop floor union representatives from bargaining about technological change, individual workloads, or organisational innovations. Through the 1960s shop steward campaigns in Burroughs, Caterpillar and NCR established the principle of mutuality as the cornerstone of work organisation. Production engineering derived from American standards was crosscut with workload norms established by custom and practice. Supervisory authority to transfer labour or reallocate tasks, similarly, was checked by shop floor notions of equity. This was a bargained form of Americanisation: contracts, shop floor discipline, and work organisation were shaped by the dynamics of workplace trade unionism as much as by managerial choices. The contest was adversarial and the outcomes were never certain and enduring, but these struggles played a major part in the domestication of American management methods.

  • 32 For an alternative view see, J. Gennard and M. Steuer, “The Industrial Relations of Foreign Owned (...)
  • 33 AEU, Greenock District Committee Minutes, 17 November, 1948, GCA.

18The first area was union recognition.32 A long struggle for recognition was pursued in the most notoriously anti-union American firms: Burroughs, Caterpillar, Cummings, IBM, Joy Sullivan, Ranco, STC, and Westclox. This was epitomised by an American Joy Sullivan manager’s eviction of two union activists on to the rain-soaked streets of Greenock: as he insisted, “they had no right to be on the premises” and he would be “employing whom he liked, Union or no Union”.33 This line held firm until the 1960s when a combination of full employment and rising living standards saw the balance of power shift from capital to labour.

  • 34 AEU, Mid-Lanark District Committee Minutes, 16 November 1961, GCA. See also, S. Black, “Numericall (...)
  • 35 AEU, Mid-Lanark District Committee Minutes, 18 November 1960, GCA.
  • 36 AEU, Mid-Lanark District Committee Minutes, 6 June 1961, GCA.
  • 37 AEU, Mid-Lanark District Committee Minutes, 19 January 1965, GCA.

19In three high profile cases – Burroughs, Caterpillar and STC – American multinational firms were forced to accept trade unions in their factories after bitter, lengthy strikes. The Caterpillar experience was representative. The company ignored all local customs regarding work allocation to skilled and semi-skilled grades. For the AEU, management “appeared to have the sole aim of injecting the workpeople with a Caterpillar psychology”.34 The AEU established a covert shop steward organisation and used elections for stewards to raise the union’s profile in the factory, as well as to draw management into a public debate concerning the legitimacy of trade unionism. Although Caterpillar had tried to follow an exclusionist strategy similar to IBM, its reliance on mechanical engineering skills hindered the establishment of an internal labour market. Conflict was inevitable. A dispute erupted in November 1960 over the dismissal of two newly elected shop stewards for convening a mass meeting to endorse the union’s recognition campaign. One dismissal was justified on the basis of “insubordination” and for daring “to leave his machine against a foreman’s instruction”.35 The result was an immediate strike of the entire workforce including non-unionists. After some three months the exhausted strikers returned to work with an implicit, although unverifiable assurance that the two stewards would be reinstated and negotiations with union officials would begin. Although recognition was achieved, full bargaining rights remained elusive.36 A systematic campaign of harassment of stewards was conducted by management. This culminated in the management restricting union facilities to acting convenors alone.37 A strike ensued over this and other grievances relating to promotion, the transfer of labour, and job evaluation. Nor was Caterpillar exceptional. A succession of short strikes prompted Goodyear’s American manager to remark that Glasgow labour was “somewhat irritation prone”.

  • 38 Ministry of Labour, “Personnel Management in Scotland”, 1960, LAB8/709, PRO. More generally, A. Mc (...)
  • 39 Scottish Engineering Employers’ Association, “Remington-Rand: 1962-63”, Case Papers, TD1059/9/64/1 (...)

20Management felt “that there is one very common word in the Scottish working class vocabulary about which they have previously heard little, ie ‘victimisation’”.38 For such US managements this was the limit of pragmatism: a reluctant acceptance of a trade union presence did not necessarily signify an endorsement of a pluralistic factory governance structure. Rather the opposite was true. Throughout the 1960s managements of US branch plants consistently worked to undermine shop steward organisation. In its most blatant form management simply targeted stewards for redundancy. In the winter of 1962-63 Remington-Rand, a fiercely anti-trade union employer, cut its workforce from 2,400 to 800. During the redundancy process over 50 of the factory’s 70 stewards were sacked. Of those stewards who remained, only one, the convenor - Calum Mackay-had any real experience. Mackay was a highly skilled toolmaker who had been employed by Remington-Rand for fifteen years. For thirteen years Mackay was convenor of shop stewards and was critical to building the union and establishing the protocols of collective bargaining. Over a six month period Mackay was allocated the most complex and cumbersome repairs whilst working under intense supervision. This skewed allocation of work resulted in Mackay averaging well below the efficiency of his workmates: he was sacked for incompetence. Despite a series of wildcat strikes across the region, Remington-Rand succeeded in dealing a fatal blow to steward organisation.39

  • 40 Board of Trade, “Immigrant Firms: Personnel Management”, SEP4/565, SRO.

21Not all US subsidiaries had elevated personnel management to the strategic role it occupied in NCR. Nor did union recognition necessarily signal a strengthening of the personnel function over line management. One Board of Trade report concluded of Caterpillar: “From a personnel management technique point of view [the company] appear to have everything”. But personnel, nevertheless, remained a Cinderella function with no executive authority and inexperienced managers with little or no specialist training. Despite the sophistication of Caterpillar personnel techniques, management bemoaned “the lack of ‘warmth’ in the Company”. Equally, despite conceding union recognition, Caterpillar management resisted even the mildest forms of joint consultation in the workplace: “their main fear [was]...that this destroyed the authority and responsibility of Management. They put tremendous stress on the responsibilities of Management, for instance, the I[ndustrial] R[elations] Manager can only recommend to Departmental Managers, he has no executive authority with them”.40

  • 41 Burroughs, “Bonus Scheme Negotiations”, 23 August 1961, TD1059/9/61/185, GCA.

22The management strategy of marginalising unions in Caterpillar proved increasingly unworkable as American firms’ grew more reliant on new incentive bonus schemes to improve productivity. Indeed, the complexity and comprehensiveness of the bonus System were principal factors in widening and deepening shop steward organisation in US-owned plants. Strikes over ‘anomalies’ mounted. In Burroughs, grassroots discontent over a complete lack of transparency and mutuality in ad hoc merit awards paid to supplement rime rates was the vehicle for comprehensive unionisation. The raison d’etre of union recruitment and factory bargaining was to check managerial unilateralism in wage determination.41 Pattern bargaining, as Burroughs management noted ruefully, developed an unstoppable momentum:

  • 42 Scottish Engineering Employers’ Association to Executive Committee, Circular Letter 63/470, 6 Dece (...)

The history of the factory showed that when increases were conceded to, or were earned by a particular group of workers, this almost invariably led to claims from other sections of workers for increased wages. In due course increases were conceded. With this in mind, the Management made an effort to anticipate these claims, and dispose of them, but apparently in doing this they have displeased the toolroom workers.42

  • 43 Scottish Engineering Employers’ Association to Executive Committee, Circular Letter 68/144, 18 Apr (...)
  • 44 Commission on Industrial Relations, Standard Telephones and Cables, Report 14, London, HMSO, 1971, (...)
  • 45 AEU, Mid-Lanark District Committee Minutes, 5 January and 27 March 1968, GCA.

23Burroughs’ management estimated that complaints over bonus payments averaged between 400 and 500 per week, with peaks of almost 700. The introduction of new products had placed enormous pressure on the managerial technicians who planned workflows and determined time targets. The legitimacy of the factory’s entire administrative infrastructure was in jeopardy: “when a new job was issued, and the time was questioned, instead of hours elapsing, it sometimes took days to get a study on the job. When job time complaints were made the job was sometimes taken away but came back with the same time, which only led to a further job time complaint”.43 Broadly speaking, in any given month, every member of Burroughs 2,200 manual workforce could be embroiled in at least one bonus dispute. In the five years to 1968 bonus inflation was approximately 4-5 per cent per annum with no productivity gain. Burroughs was by no means exceptional. Where managerial discretion over earnings or complex bonus Systems were overlaid by abrupt changes in a plant’s principal product or by diversification, small-scale disputes proliferated. In Standard Telephones and Cables (STC), increased complexity in production runs compromised management planning and interrupted workflows. In 1966 small-scale bonus strikes-typically of just a few hours duration-averaged between two and three working weeks for every manual worker.44 The accretion of power can be gauged from the fact that in January 1968 the stewards were to negotiate with management over workplace bargaining institutions. A demand was table for the reinstatement and reconstitution of the works committee and this was agreed to in March of that year.45 Intense, small-scale negotiations over bonuses were paralleled by shop steward attempts to extend the scope and increase the formalisation of factory-wide collective bargaining. In particular, stewards bargained to establish a robust, disciplinary ‘tariff’ for misdemeanours - lapses in quality, insubordination, and absenteeism. Stewards sought to shift the frontier of control by fleshing out a procedure that precluded supervisory dictat and ensured that each case had a hearing, representation, and appeal. Managerial authority was now subject to procedural checks and balances. Mutuality had trimmed managerial prerogative and eroded the resonance of corporate welfarism. From the early 1960s onwards, improvements in earnings and conditions were no longer perceived as settled unilaterally by management, but as the outcome of shop steward pressure. Adversarial bargaining was an essential feature of the employment relationship and critical to the development of work organisation.

  • 46 Caterpillar, Joint Shop Stewards’ Committee Minutes, 25 August 1965, GCA.
  • 47 AEU, Mid-Lanark District Committee Minutes, 3 and 22 June 1966, GCA.
  • 48 J. Pomlet, “Toolmaker”, in R. Fraser (ed.), Work: Twenty Personal Accounts, Harmondsworth, Penguin (...)

24Union successes in embedding union structures within hostile American firms was double-edged. Complex bonus schemes encouraged sectional bargaining and this undermined worker solidarity in the long run. The tension between tactical sectional bargaining and the development of a strategic agenda was the key dynamic of shop steward organisation. The AEU’s chief shop steward in Caterpillar attempted to consolidate a procedure agreement for the factory to channel disputes away from departments. But within a few years of securing full bargaining rights less than a quarter of the stewards endorsed this strategy, as the majority could only retain the support of their local constituants by becoming immersed in sectional disputes.46 In extreme cases, sectional disputes also generated inter-union conflict. The AEU in Burroughs and Sunbeam Electric complained that the Scottish Metal Workers Union was increasingly successful in poaching lapsed members, specifically highly skilled toolmakers disgruntled by the erosion of their wage differential and status.47 Skill differentials and variations in bargaining power echoed gender divisions in the workplace. In unionised factories the greatest union density and levels of shop steward activity were in the toolroom, the area in which the most skilled work was concentrated.48 Conversely, the lowest levels of unionisation and the poorest in terms of shop steward representation were in female-dominated assembly areas. In Hoover, for instance, some 60 per cent of the labour force were female but over 90 per cent of shop stewards were men. Male, skilled shop stewards were perceived as largely irrelevant to the concerns of female production workers. A representational deficit emerged, particularly in mass production factories with heavily gendered labour processes. As one female Hoover steward explained to a meeting of union activists debating how to enhance and widen their representational role in the workplace: “We’re seen as dues collectors. We have nothing to offer these women”.

  • 49 Black 1983: 43.

25Finally, union success, however qualified, was fragile. Gains made in one year could be reversed in a matter of months as shifts in the demand for products and labour, or simply changes in shop floor personnel, altered the balance of power. Of the AEU activists in Caterpillar who had led the successful campaign for union recognition in 1960-61, none worked for the tractor manufacturer ten years later.49 As the growth of the 1960s gave way to retrenchment in the 1970s, Scottish plants confronted hostile product markets with poor productivity records, rapidly deteriorating industrial relations, and, most important, ever more aged products. Competitive decline and recession profoundly affected workplace organisational structures so assiduously and carefully built up over the preceding years. In these new circumstances shop steward strategy turned towards acceptance of corporate employee involvement schemes and underwriting plant management’s survival bids inside corporate internal markets.

conclusion

26Of the first wave American inward investors, only IBM successfully sustained its anti-trade union strategy. Others, such as NCR, made tactical concessions to trade unions during their start-up period. In such cases, this granted trade unions a factory-level legitimacy that shop steward bargaining extended onto the shopfloor. Where management initially refused to countenance collective bargaining, adversarial bargaining and unionisation went hand in hand. All American subsidiaries refused to accept a pluralistic model of industrial relations. Indeed, before the early 1960’s, trade unions were extremely weak in American branch plants. Shop stewards, particularly in routinised and feminised assembly areas, were incidental to collective bargaining. By the late 1960s, however, this picture was reversed: no change could occur in work organisation or the wage-effort bargain without prior consultation, if not necessarily negotiation, with shop stewards. Historic notions of craft and community had an important bearing on the attitudes of workers and unions towards American personnel management practices and were crucial in the process of domestication of American firms. Only IBM and Kodak were able to construct sealed plants in which internal labour markets and wages Systems eroded or destroyed craft mentalities and traditions. Other US subsidiaries were forced to accept historically formed notions of bargaining and payment. These attitudes were also important in limiting the ability of American firms to adopt exclusionist policies towards unions. It was the downturn in the economy in the early 1970s that made possible the restructuring of the workforce through redundancy and the break up of union organisation in US-owned factories in Scotland. It was the long-run elimination-or pacification-of introverted factory unionism that was the essential precondition for the emergence and success of human resource management techniques in the last two decades of the Twentieth Century. Union exclusion made the workplace safe for Human Relations Management.

***

Bibliographie

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McKinlay A. 1996. “Management and Workplace Trade Unionism: Clydeside Engineering, 1945-57”, in J. Melling and A. McKinlay (eds.), Management, Labour and Industrial Politics in Modem Europe, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar.

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Zeitlin J. 2000. “Americanizing British Engineering? Strategic Debate, Selective Adaptation, and Hybrid Innovation in Post-War Reconstruction, 1945-1960”, in J. Zeitlin and G. Herrigel (eds.), Americanisation and its Limits: Reworking US Technology and Management in Post-War Europe and Japan, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Notes

1 Alan McKinlay wishes to acknowledge the support of the Economic and Social Research Council, UK (Grant R000223271).

2 J. Zeitlin, “Americanizing British Engineering? Strategic Debate, Selective Adaptation, and Hybrid Innovation in Post-War Reconstruction, 1945-1960”, in J. Zeitlin and G. Herrigel (eds.), Americanisation and its Limits: Reworking US Technology and Management in Post-War Europe and Japan, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2000, p. 151.

3 W. W. Knox and A. McKinlay, “Working for the Yankee Dollar: American Inward Investment and Scottish Labour, 1945-70”, Historical Studies in Industrial Relations, 7, 1999, p. 1-26.

4 J. H. Dunning, American Investment in British Manufacturing, London, Allen & Unwin, 1958, p.58; P. Dicken and P. Lloyd, “Geographical Perspectives on United States Investment in the United Kingdom”, Environment and Planning, A (8), 1976, p. 697.

5 R. F. Miskell (ed.), US Private and Government Investment Abroad, Portland OR, University of Oregon Press, 1962. For an example highlighting the critical importance of currency restrictions on corporate investment decisions see, Board of Trade to Kahn, Treasury, 4 September 1952, T224/325, Public Record Office, London [hereafter PRO].

6 See Board of Trade, “Location of Firms: Reasons”, 1951, BT177/370, PRO.

7 US Consul, Edinburgh to Department of State, 17 October 1949, RG59/250/37/33/2, US National Archives, Washington, USA.

8 Scottish Council (Development and Industry), Opportunities for Industrial Development inScotland., Edinburgh, Scottish Council, 1975, p.3.

9 S. Jacoby, Employing Bureaucracy: Managers, Unions and the Transformation of Work in American Industry, 1900-1945, Guilford, NY, Columbia UP, 1985, p.60-64.

10 D. Forsyth, US Investment in Scotland, New York, Praeger, 1972, p. 160.

11 Jacoby 1985:60-64.

12 S. Allyn, NCR, “Address to Scottish Council for Industry”, Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York, 4 September 1953, SEP4/341, Scottish Records Office, Edinburgh, UK [hereafter SRO].

13 Engineering and National Employers’ Federation, Dundee District, to the Board of Trade, 22 February 1950, BT177/522, PRO.

14 Scottish Engineering Employers’ Association to Member Firms, Circular Letter 63-36, 25 January 1963, TD1059/7/57, Glasgow City Archives, Glasgow [hereafter GCA].

15 Commission on Industrial Relations, Hoover, Report 11, London, HMSO, 1971, p. 20, 22.

16 Forsyth 1972: 204.

17 IBM, IBM in Scotland, IBM, Greenock, 1987.

18 NCR, “Annual Report”, 1951, Library of Congress Microfiche 443, Washington DC.

19 Ministry of Labour, “Personnel Management: Scotland”, 1966, LAB8/564, PRO.

20 J. S. Dunning, “US-Owned Manufacturing Affiliates and the Transfer of Managerial Techniques: The British Case”, in M. Kipping and O. Bjarnar (eds.), The Americanisation of European Business: The Marshall Plan and the Transfer of US Management Models, London, Routledge, 1998, p.74-90.

21 Observer,; 15 February 1959.

22 For example, AEU, Greenock District Committee Minutes, 25 March, 25 July 1953, GCA.

23 Board of Trade, Industry Department for Scotland, “Location of Industry: General”, 12 February 1960, SEP4/1618 and “Draft Article for the Journal of the Board of Trade”, [n.d.], SEP4/341, SRO.

24 A.J.S. Watson, Veeder-Root to Board of Trade, “Post War Factory Development by Overseas Firms 1954-58”, [n.d.] SEP4/563, SRO.

25 Board of Trade, “Hoover: Investigation and Report”, May 1948, BT177/903, PRO.

26 Board of Trade, “Application by Hoover”, 31 August 1959, BT177/904, PRO.

27 AEU Greenock district Committee Minutes, 7 October 1953, GCA.

28 AEU, Dundee District Committee Minutes, 5 and 26 June 1946, Dundee City Archives, Dundee, [hereafter DCA].

29 AEU, Greenock District Committee Minutes, 14 September 1949, GCA.

30 Scottish Trades Union Congress, General Council Minutes, 22 June 1973, p. 1289, Glasgow Caledonian University Archive, Glasgow, UK.

31 T. Dickson, H. McLachlan, P. Prior and K. Swales, ‘Big Blue and the Unions: IBM, Individualism and Trade Union Strategies’, Work, Employment and Society, 2 (4), 1988, p.506-20.

32 For an alternative view see, J. Gennard and M. Steuer, “The Industrial Relations of Foreign Owned Subsidiaries in the United Kingdom”, British Journal of Industrial Relations, IX (2), 1971, p. 143-159.

33 AEU, Greenock District Committee Minutes, 17 November, 1948, GCA.

34 AEU, Mid-Lanark District Committee Minutes, 16 November 1961, GCA. See also, S. Black, “Numerically Controlled Machine Tools in a Heavy Engineering Manufacturing and Assembly Plant: Caterpillar Tractor Company”, in D. Buchanan and D. Boddy, Organizations in the Computer Age: Technological Imperatives and Strategic Choice, Aldershot, Gower, 1983, p.42-43.

35 AEU, Mid-Lanark District Committee Minutes, 18 November 1960, GCA.

36 AEU, Mid-Lanark District Committee Minutes, 6 June 1961, GCA.

37 AEU, Mid-Lanark District Committee Minutes, 19 January 1965, GCA.

38 Ministry of Labour, “Personnel Management in Scotland”, 1960, LAB8/709, PRO. More generally, A. McKINLAY, “Management and Workplace Trade Unionism: Clydeside Engineering, 1945-57”, in J. Melling and A. McKinlay (eds.), Management, Labour and Industrial Politics in Modern Europe, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, 1996.

39 Scottish Engineering Employers’ Association, “Remington-Rand: 1962-63”, Case Papers, TD1059/9/64/170, GCA.

40 Board of Trade, “Immigrant Firms: Personnel Management”, SEP4/565, SRO.

41 Burroughs, “Bonus Scheme Negotiations”, 23 August 1961, TD1059/9/61/185, GCA.

42 Scottish Engineering Employers’ Association to Executive Committee, Circular Letter 63/470, 6 December 1963, TD1059/7/60, GCA; P. Sloane, “Wage Drift: with reference to case studies in central Scotland (Part II Journal of Economic Studies, 2 (2), 1967, p. 61-73.

43 Scottish Engineering Employers’ Association to Executive Committee, Circular Letter 68/144, 18 April 1968, TD1059/7/71, GCA.

44 Commission on Industrial Relations, Standard Telephones and Cables, Report 14, London, HMSO, 1971, p.7.

45 AEU, Mid-Lanark District Committee Minutes, 5 January and 27 March 1968, GCA.

46 Caterpillar, Joint Shop Stewards’ Committee Minutes, 25 August 1965, GCA.

47 AEU, Mid-Lanark District Committee Minutes, 3 and 22 June 1966, GCA.

48 J. Pomlet, “Toolmaker”, in R. Fraser (ed.), Work: Twenty Personal Accounts, Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1969.

49 Black 1983: 43.

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