Mechanisation and the miner : work, safety and labour relations in the Scottish coal industry, c. 1890-1939
The aim of this research is to fill the gap in the current historiography of the labour process and industrial relations on the impact of new technology on the work process. Invariably, when considering mechanisation in the coal industry, the existing literature usually glosses over the topic referring to the numbers of machines in use and the percentage of output produced. Little in-depth research has been undertaken into the way these new processes changed the work of the miner, the effect on safety undergroundand the effects that these innovations had on labour relations in the industry. The thesis probes the way mechanisation affected the work of the miner. Consideration is given to deskilling, loss of control at the point of production, intensification of the work process and employment. The findings show that although some mineworkers increased their skills the vast majority experienced a downgrading in skill. Employers used new technology to erode the control miners had in the mines. Mechanisation led to an intensification of work effort. Mechanisation proved a doubled-edged sword for employment opportunities. Employment increased in the earlier period, but the move to mechanical conveying in the inter-war years had the opposite effect on job opportunities. Regarding mine safety the evidence indicates that mechanisation led to an increase in the risk of death and injury for Scottish mineworkers. New technology also impacted on industrial relations. Mines, which were highly mechanised generally witnessed a high degree of industrial unrest. It is not suggested that mechanisation was a direct cause of conflict but it has been demonstrated that it did produce potential grievances which may have been translated into industrial conflict.