This book is an interim report on how the human problems of the British coal industry are handled under nationalization—one of the classic experiments in governmental control of a great industry. The book makes clear why the future progress of the industry will depend on the solution of specific labor problems regardless of the system of ownership or which political party may control the government or the Coal Board.
The main body of the book consists of case studies of nine key problems: union structure, collective bargaining, joint consultation, absenteeism, labor supply, wage structure, methods of wage payment, labor’s attitudes toward technological change, and the relocation of labor in the Scottish coalfield. The exploration of these problems is based on many pit visits, attendance at union meetings and conventions, innumerable discussions with union and Coal Board officials at all levels, and wide familiarity with the extensive literature on the industry. As a result of the extensive amount of field work done by the author, the book contains much new material not published elsewhere.
Of particular interest are the detailed, realistic accounts of mining operations in a typical British pit, and the description and analysis of incentive wage systems and the effect on these of technological change. The analysis of handling union recognition, the problem of break-away groups, and provisions for union security are treated with detail not otherwise available. The book shows the impact of nationalization upon the structure and operation of the National Union of Mineworkers and the adjustments in management of the coal pits. Explicit comparisons between British and American labor relations practices should interest students in both countries.
For students of British labor relations or coal industry specialists, this book will be a valuable reference, and it will be of special interest to anyone investigating the claim of the socialists that they could make a unique contribution to the solution of labor problems.