Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

La estructura del salario en los astilleros alemanes (1870-1960). Trabajo a destajo, scientific management y organización obrera

Antonio Farina


The history of piece wages, which will be briefly reconstructed around the historically determined case of the shipbuilding industry in the northern germany city of Bremen between 1870 and 1960, provides a rich insight
into the process of wealth accumulation and changes in the economy, technology, and organisation of capitalist production. The choice of taking a long-term perspective has been made to highlight the relationship between continuity and ruptures in regards to wages. The formation of piece work occurred at the same time – in the 1880s – as the semi-artisan production structure of wooden shipbuilding gave way to the industrial system of iron and steel. The workers in the old production system worked for a daily salary governed by customs and work ethics that were rooted in the tradition of shipbuilding. The transition replaced these professions with skilled industrial workers from the mechanical and metallurgical industries where where remuneration at piece rates piece rates had already been an established practice for at least three decades. The central hypothesis of this research, which i will attempt to explain in the course of this paper, is that of the relative continuity of the forms of piece work. The high degree of complexity of the productive tasks performed by workers within the shipyards made for quite a difficult transition to rationalisation.

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