An anthropological study of longshoremen and of industrial relations in the Port of St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
This thesis examines the social organisation of longshoremen and their families and its implications for industrial relations in the Port of St. John's, Canada. The analysis focusses on effects of an extreme in casual labour markets operating against a background of chronic unemployment. Although concentrating on activities within the port it is essential to place these within Newfoundland's geographic, economic, political and legal contexts; these accordingly form the basis of Chapter 1, which also introduces the actors. Chapter 2 sets the longshore family within the context of Newfoundland's rurally based kinship system and shows how structural divisions and alliances derived from within the family are manifest on the dock. It demonstrates how physical strength and prestige are related and as men age, wives and sons assume familial authority. Religion is ezamined in Chapter 3 as providing a social bond for pious women through whom are allocated scarce resources, both economic and social. Economic resources, as collectively organised welfare payments, are offered in cases of family misfortune, whilst piety permits social mobility of children. Mothers are thus able to alleviate some disadvantages of a father's low class occupation. Chapters 4, 5, 6 and 7 concentrate on the longshore work gang as basic unit of work and leisure. Chapter 4 examines how gang workers cooperate and emerge able collectively to modify the foreman's apparently absolute powers in hiring, firing and discipline. The methods by which collective opposition is mounted and prior structural divisions overcome are analysed through an extended case study, the subject of Chapter 5. Chapter 6 examines how pilferage is organised in the docks; analyses alliances and dependencies involved and the institutionalised limits set. It then considers implications of limits as an aspect of longshore morality and an indication of managerial collusion. The articulation of gang organisation derived from work and that found in leisure activities is considered in Chapter 7. The gang is examined as an insurance agency parallel to women's organisations discussed in Chapter 3. Integration and membership within gangs is derived from conformity to work and sociability norms - particularly in drinking. Relationships within drinking groups are then considered in detail. Some men, outsiders to these norms, are found in the gangs; their special role as gang spokesmen against management is considered as they articulate with the Union's political life. Chapter 8 considers Union political activity and relations with employers together. Membership participation is constrained by divisive aspects of membership and Union structure. These are moveable when preconditions allow cross wharf alliances. Resulting turbulence can be focussed on Executives or through them to Employers. In the concluding chapter I briefly summarise the argument.