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'Revolution in the coalfields': industrial relations in wartime south Wales, 1939-45

Gooberman, Leon ORCID: 2022. 'Revolution in the coalfields': industrial relations in wartime south Wales, 1939-45. Labor History 63 (1) , pp. 55-72. 10.1080/0023656X.2022.2056585
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Labour unrest in the United Kingdom during the Second World War was concentrated within the coal industry that accounted for around half of all strikes. This article proposes that institutional industrial relations within this regionally constituted industry should be analysed through a regional lens, as opposed to a national approach. It uses a case study of the south Wales coalfield to examine how the regional union and employers’ association interacted with each other and the state to govern industrial relations. It makes two arguments. One is that war transformed their relative power given the need to produce sufficient coal to fuel the war economy. The South Wales Miners Federation gained influence as it offered co-operation to boost production, but the Monmouthshire and South Wales Coalowners Association lost agency as it sought unsuccessfully to maintain pre-war approaches, while ongoing crises forced the government to accelerate interventions. The other is that these shifts enabled regional unions to outflank owners and co-opt the state to achieve their goals within industrial relations; the recreation of national bargaining machinery and obtaining higher wages. Although unions could not secure nationalization, the war ended with a consensus that the ownership status quo was untenable.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Publisher: Routledge
ISSN: 0023-656X
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 22 March 2022
Date of Acceptance: 16 March 2022
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2022 20:08

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