The Rise and Decline of the British Motor Industry by Roy A. Church

By Roy A. Church

This pamphlet presents a synthesis of the enormously divergent perspectives at the motor released over contemporary years. sooner than 1945 disagreements centred commonly at the measure of backwardness of the in 1914. After 1945 there's basic contract that the suffered from low investment.

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Its starting point is a model of technical change in which the 'effort bargain' between employer and worker is crucial. The outcome of interaction between employers and workers within a changing institutional context, the struggle between capital and labour is seen to determine which group controls effort norms, to what degree, and with what effects on capital investment [Lewchuck, 1987]. Even before 1914, Ford's sale of American vehicles assembled at Trafford Park achieved considerable success in tapping a hitherto latent market for low-priced vehicles designed to provide basic transport.

As a member of the EEF, Austin was required to recognize the trade unions, but organization at Longbridge was discouraged and sometimes penalized [Church, 1979]. Craft workers, the most highly unionized section of the industry before 1921, were a dwindling proportion of all car workers between the wars, especially outside the body and machine shops. Clayden estimated that by the mid 1930s between 60 and 70 per cent of workers in the industry were semiskilled, including women and boys; in the volume production factories of Austin and Morris the figure was between 70 and 80 per cent [Clayden, 1987].

According to Lewchuck's account, beginning in 1914 British manufacturers, most of whom were members of the Engineering Employers' Federation (EEF), attempted to create the conditions for a Ford-style industrial strategy. Shop stewards in Coventry, a major centre of engineering employment where the movement was increasing in strength, campaigned against a Fordist strategy of direct control and machine pacing, ultimately forcing employers to concede a degree of control over effort norms by falling back on piecework systems, leaving the decision governing production levels to individual workers.

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