Undermining Industrial Citizenship: Deindustrialization and the Rise of Precarious Employment in the Lanarkshire Coalfield, Scotland and Sudbury Hard Rock Mining, Canada

Gibbs, E. (2016) Undermining Industrial Citizenship: Deindustrialization and the Rise of Precarious Employment in the Lanarkshire Coalfield, Scotland and Sudbury Hard Rock Mining, Canada. In: International Labour Process Conference 2016: Working Revolutions, Revolutionising Work, Berlin, Germany, 04-06 Apr 2016,

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This paper presents a comparative analysis of the changing status of work and employment within two major mining areas which experienced prolonged decline during the second half of the twentieth century. It illuminates the social impact of industrial restructuring and divestment within sectors which had traditionally provided large-scale stable male employment. A focus is placed on how structures of community embeddedness, stable employment and worker ‘voice’ were understood by workers and undermined by the institution of neoliberal employment relations since the 1980s. The analysis centres on the role of commonalities and differences within mining communities in the Lanarkshire coalfield, Scotland, and the Sudbury hard rock mining industry in Ontario, Canada. This emphasises comparative aspects of political economy through considering how the role of nationalised industries in Lanarkshire, multinational ownership in Ontario, state policy and sectoral differences between coal and hard rock mining have shaped outcomes in both cases. Interviews with former mineworkers and members of mining families, and some current mineworkers in the case of Sudbury, are used to understand the construction of occupational identities and structures of industrial citizenship. This was premised upon the maintenance of secure employment and the exercise of ‘voice’ through trade union recognition and consultative structures. The embedded nature of mining activities within locales, including the role of occupational associations and the British National Coal Board (NCB) and Canadian mining companies’ involvement in community social life are also underlined as key to constructing conceptions of industrial citizenship. The paper centres on counterpoising Lanarkshire’s experience of final closures and the end of deep mining with the divestment of non-production activities and less profitable mines in Sudbury. The paper’s analysis centres on worker and community responses to radical sectoral restructuring. In the case of Lanarkshire this entailed the closure of the county’s last colliery, Cardowan, in 1983 in the build up to the 1984-5 miners’ strike. Although Sudbury retains an active mining sector, the industry has experienced extensive restructuring since the 1970s characterized by an industrial relations system allowing the hollowing out firm level employment and the growing use of subcontractors by new multinational owners. These workers lack access to the employment security of the ‘core’ unionised workforce. In both cases therefore secure employment within mining has been lost, but the paper contrasts the experience of workers who left the coal mining industry in Scotland with those who experienced the establishment of flexible conditions in Canadian hard rock mining. The rise of precarious work in a sector traditionally associated with stable employment in Sudbury is emphasised through an analysis of the narratives to gauge employee perceptions and how this has affected understandings of the industry, and occupational and locale identities. These are counterpoised with the Lanarkshire narratives of the loss of industrial activities and the rise of a service sector labour market marked by insecure employment practices in predominantly feminised sectors.

Item Type:Conference Proceedings
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Gibbs, Dr Ewan
Authors: Gibbs, E.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Economic and Social History
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