‘In the same boat’? Labour Relations and Structural Change in German and Polish Shipyards in the 1970s
Sarah Graber Majchrzak
Completed associated PhD project
The structural change that has been taking place in the working environments and the daily lives of workers in European industrial societies since the 1970s has for some time been a research focus within the field of contemporary history. However, historical studies have almost exclusively addressed Western Europe, although Eastern European countries were similarly exposed to the intensified competition on the world market and the challenges of the ‘Third Industrial Revolution’.
In the context of a ‘Crisis of Industrialisation’ (Charles S. Maier), the change of labour relations will be traced through the 1970s and 1980s in Eastern and Western Europe. The impact of the economic crisis – triggered by the collapse of the Bretton Woods system in 1971/72, the oil shocks of 1973/74 and 1979/80, and increased international capital mobility – on labour relations and conditions of production in the shipbuilding industry, will be analysed, as well as their subsequent effects on the working conditions and daily lives of the shipyard workers.
As part of the research project, the particular modes and impacts of these changes within European industrial societies will be studied in detail on the basis of a micropolitical approach.
Indicators, such as changes in the production process (e.g. in the era of Taylorism) or a deterioration in the living and working conditions, can lead to valuable findings on the experience of the workforce and its attitudes towards the work.
The focus of the research is on the one hand on the labour situation, taking into account factors such as the implementation of new technologies, the relative qualification and age structure of the workforce, and on the other hand on the opportunities for communication and social relations in the workplace, the relationship between work and leisure time and the self-concept of the workers. Another important topic for investigation is labour conflicts. The research will analyse how conflicts originate and proceed, how the conflicting parties act and respond, and finally which modes of protest they apply and which demands they pose. The question at the heart of this project is the link between the changing production processes on the one hand and the corresponding ways in which workers organised and behaved in conflict situations on the other hand.
April 2019 Sarah Graber completed her doctorate at the University of Potsdam with the grade "Summa cum laude".
Publication: Arbeit – Produktion – Protest. Die Leninwerft in Gdansk und die AG »Weser« in Bremen im Vergleich (1968–1983), Dec. 2020, Böhlau Verlag, Köln.