Productivity bargaining in the British steel industry, 1964-74
The aim of the thesis is to provide an analysis of the British steel industry's attempts to deal with the reform of industrial relations in the period 1964-74, and to evaluate the contribution of productivity bargaining to that process. After a first introductory chapter, Chapters Two to Four are concerned with outlining the industry's problems, the employer's response, and with the negotiation of industry-wide productivity agreements. The contribution of productivity bargaining is evaluated in Chapters Five to Eight in which industrial relations at Corby and Ravenscraig Works are examined. The methods of investigation include the use of primary sources such as private letters, minutes, reports and statistical data, and also published material; this was possible through the author being employed at Ravenscraig during 1965-70. Other data was gathered through interviews with union officials and managers at various levels, the interview programme being carried out while the author was employed at the Steel Industry Management College, 1971-75. In addition, employee attitude surveys conducted at both Corby and Ravenscraig provided relevant material. The thesis tries to improve understanding of the collective bargaining process by a detailed examination of bargaining structures, by tracing the reaction and interactions of management, unions and work groups to changes in the awareness of their interests as they either react to a structural change or introduce a new one which thereby alters behaviour. The principal arguments are contained in three sequential but integrated hypotheses which identify the key explanatory variables and the nature of their interaction. The main contribution of the thesis is to refine and make more precise the application of both systems theory and job regulation theory to the factory level reform process. The conclusions follow from the testing of the hypotheses and are as follows: (i) The collective bargaining structure is a major variable explaining industrial relations behaviour. (ii) A major weakness of both systems and job regulation theories is the one directional nature of their causal sequence and the thesis illustrates a systematic process of two way interaction between the key structural factors and the behavioural response. (iii) The more centralised, standardised and formalised the key structural variables (that is, the collective bargaining arrangements, management and union organisations) the greater the power of leaders to assist or resist reform. Conversely, the more structures are fragmented with power devolved the weaker the leaderships' influence. (iv) The adherence to a definite causal sequence of key variable interaction increases the probability of a successful outcome. The hypotheses are tested and the conclusions validated in Chapters Five to Eight of the thesis.