Who owns a factory?: Caterpillar tractors in Uddingston, 1956-1987

Gibbs, E. and Phillips, J. (2018) Who owns a factory?: Caterpillar tractors in Uddingston, 1956-1987. Historical Studies in Industrial Relations, 39, pp. 111-137. (doi:10.3828/hsir.2018.39.4)

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Abstract

This case study of the Caterpillar earthmoving-equipment factory at Uddingston in Lanarkshire from opening in 1956 to closure in 1987 contributes to debates about workforce resistance to deindustrialization by focusing on the issue of ownership. The factory was owned by the US multinational’s UK tractor-manufacturing subsidiary, but this analysis demonstrates the manner in which workers and communities asserted rights to ‘ownership’ of a valued local resource. The factory, the largest single industrial unit in Scotland during the 1960s, was established with regional assistance, and built on the site of a former mining village. Policy-makers tacitly offered a viable future with more sustainable employment than coal mining. This promise was violated, initially by the firm’s anti-union production regime which the workers overturned with a successful strike for union recognition in the winter of 1960-61; and second, when the closure of the factory was announced in 1987. Caterpillar workers responded by challenging the right of their employer to dispose freely of material assets – the factory and its equipment – that had been developed with public money and through their efforts. A 103-day occupation from January to April 1987 was led by a strong factory trade union organization that had been developed by the workers at Caterpillar, embedded in an extensive social infrastructure with powerful familial ties. Moral economy claims of communal ownership of the factory were asserted by the occupiers in the face of corporate power and private property rights. The occupation was unsuccessful but nevertheless represented an important attempt to resist the acceleration of deindustrialization in the 1980s.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Moral economy, deindustrialization, factory occupation, trade unions, industrial relations.
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Phillips, Dr James and Gibbs, Mr Ewan
Authors: Gibbs, E., and Phillips, J.
Subjects:D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Economic and Social History
Journal Name:Historical Studies in Industrial Relations
Journal Abbr.:HSIR
Publisher:Liverpool University Press
ISSN:1362-1572
ISSN (Online):2049-4459
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2018 Liverpool University Press
First Published:First published in Historical Studies in Industrial Relations 39: 111-137
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

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