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      Pluto Journals
      technology, work practices, labour markets, metalworkers


            This article surveys the history of work practices in sheet metal work from 1929 to 1970. It focuses on the role of internal labour markets and union power in sustaining such work practices as seniority, the strict allocation of work according to job classifications, and the regulation of working time. Internal labour markets were structured by formal and informal rules which made it difficult for employers to transfer employees or to recruit from the wider, external labour market. Such restrictions placed barriers in the way of the most efficient use of new technologies. Managerial control over how work was done and attempts to improve discipline and to increase work effort were also limited by work practices. To the extent that internal labour markets prevented the easy employment of labour from the external labour market, the bargaining power of employees was strengthened.


            Author and article information

            Critical Studies in Innovation
            Pluto Journals
            December 1989
            : 7
            : 2
            : 225-238
            8629071 Prometheus, Vol. 7, No. 2, 1989: pp. 225–238
            Copyright Taylor & Francis Group, LLC

            All content is freely available without charge to users or their institutions. Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles in this journal without asking prior permission of the publisher or the author. Articles published in the journal are distributed under a http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

            Page count
            Figures: 0, Tables: 0, References: 36, Pages: 14
            Original Articles

            Computer science,Arts,Social & Behavioral Sciences,Law,History,Economics
            work practices,metalworkers,labour markets,technology


            1. For internal labour markets and technological change see also L.C. Hunter, G.L. Reid and D. Boddy, Labour Problems of Technological Change, Allen and Unwin, London, 1970, pp. 47–9; P.B. Doeringer and M.J. Piore, Internal Labour Markets and Manpower Analysis, D.C. Heath, Lexington, Mass., 1971; and B. Wilkinson, The Shopfloor Politics of New Technology, Heinemann Educational Books, London, 1983.

            2. E196 and E245 refer to the records of the Sheet Metal Working, Agricultural Implement and Stovemaking Industrial Union of Australia, New South Wales branch (SMWIUA), held at the Australian National University Archives of Business and Labour. These records contain rule books, minute books and correspondence files from the 1900s to the late 1960s. The records also include copies of awards, piecework agreements and the transcripts of arbitration cases over this period. Sheet metal workers were organised into unions in various Australian colonies in the 1880s; after federation these unions operated within the States. In 1911, a federal union, the Sheet Metal Working Industrial Union of Australia was formed. It consisted of the Sheet Metal Workers' Unions of Victoria and Queensland. In 1919, New South Wales sheet metal workers joined the union. Throughout this article, the union will be referred to as the Sheet Metal Working Union for the sake of uniformity. The union covered stovemakers, enamellers, agricultural implement makers, tinsmiths, shot and sand blasters, and those who worked with porcelain. Such persons were employed in factories that manufactured tins and canisters, stoves, baths and other products that required enamelling, meters, and white goods such as refrigerators and washing machines. Sheet metal workers were also employed alongside other metal workers, such as moulders, engineers, fitters and turners, blacksmiths, various machinists, toolmakers, pattern makers and furnacemen.

            3. E196/2/4, minutes of management committee, SMWIUA, 7 July 1952.

            4. E196/2/5, minutes of executive meeting, SMWIUA, 4 August 1942.

            5. E196/2/4, minutes of executive meeting, SMWIUA, 10 August 1948.

            6. E196/2/4, minutes of management committee, SMWIUA, 24 June 1952.

            7. E245/83, T. Wright, secretary, SMWIUA to L. J. Triglowne, executive director, Wormald Bros Industries Ltd, 3 December 1963.

            8. E245/41, agreement between Carrier Air Conditioning Pty Ltd and AEU, ASE, FIA and SMWU.

            9. For the above material, see E196/2/3, minutes of special meeting, SMWIUA, 9 May 1929, of general meeting 23 May 1929, and of executive meeting, 29 October 1929.

            10. E196/2/3, minutes of executive meeting, 16 September 1930.

            11. E196/2/3, minutes of summoned general meeting, SMWIUA, 13 February 1941.

            12. E245/80, Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904/47, nos. 41/49 and 48/49, March 1949, p. 3.

            13. E196/2/4, minutes of general meeting, SMWIUA, 26 May 1949.

            14. E196/2/6, minutes of biennial federal conference, SMWIUA, Adelaide, April 1962, p. 11.

            15. E245/69, ‘Union restrictive practices applying at Clyde Engineering’, 1 June 1971.

            16. E196/2/3, minutes of executive meeting, SMWIUA, 23 May 1944.

            17. E196/2/3, minutes of executive meeting, SMWIUA, 9 October 1945.

            18. See generally E196/2/5, minutes of NSW branch, SMWIUA, 17 January 1956–23 September 1969.

            19. E245/57, ‘Metters moulders dispute’.

            20. E196/2/3, minutes of general meeting, SMWIUA, 31 July 1930.

            21. E196/2/3, minutes of executive meeting, SMWIUA, 18 October 1931.

            22. E196/2/3, minutes of executive meeting, SMWIUA, 6 February 1936 and 20 February 1936.

            23. For the above material in this paragraph, see E245/128, Industrial Commission of New South Wales, before the Deputy Commissioner, 30 April 1929; and E245/93, Industrial Commission of New South Wales, no. 420 of 1928, Chairman's notes of proceedings.

            24. See E196/2/3, minutes of general meeting, SMWIUA, 12 February 1942.

            25. See generally E196/2/3, minutes of SMWIUA, 3 January 1929–8 December 1949.

            26. E196/2/4, minutes of executive meeting, SMWIUA, 9 April 1946.

            27. E196/2/6, minutes of biennial federal conference, SMWIUA, Adelaide, May 1954, p. 16–18.

            28. E245/76, ‘Service payment (incremental system of over award payments)’.

            29. E196/2/6, minutes of federal council conference, Queensland, March 1940, p. 1.

            30. E196/2/6, minutes of biennial conference, SMWIUA, Brisbane, May 1956.

            31. E196/2/6, minutes of the biennial federal conference, SMWIUA, Sydney, April-May 1958, p. 16.

            32. ibid., p. 17.

            33. ibid., p. 19.

            34. ibid.

            35. E196/2/6, minutes of the biennial federal conference, SMWIUA, Sydney, April-May 1958, p. 10.

            36. ibid.


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