Summary of the Shipbuilding Labour Group Meeting in Bergen, 1st /2nd October 2013


Summary, Seminar in Bergen, 1st /2nd  October 2013

Participants: Kari Teräs, Raquel Varela, Hans-Jakob Agotnes, Marcel van der Linden Johanna Wolf, Jan Heiret, Tobias Karlsson


Case studies



–        After 1945 restructuring of the shipbuilding industry – changing production: scale and types of ships, production system, organisation of work

–        Special: group formation, several yards merged and high-technological ships were developed like advanced fishing vessels – for example Aker Yards and Kvaerner

–        Late 1960s oil industry started and switch to offshore production, highly structured by policy of “Norwegianzisation”


–        What is characterising production? Did it change – from shipbuilding to oil industry? What happened to the workers?

–        Workers migration – phenomenon in general? Are they forced to migrate in Norway?


–        Speciality of Sweden: high rate of big ships like bulk and tankers

–        In the 1960s there were temporary agencies – Norwegian firms that hired workers from Portugal, Yugoslavia a.o.; considered as a huge problem by trade unions (discussion also in the European Metalworkers` Federation); temporary workers organized by themselves; core workers thought they got higher salaries/better conditions

–        Negotiations about the transformation of piece rates to monthly wages

–        Strategies to the oil price shocks in the 1970s: devaluations, subsidies, active labour market policies

–        Since 1970s segmentation of the labour market including increasing numbers of workers hired temporary

–        Difficulties in late 1960s to be followed by a short-lived boom period in the 1970s

–        During crisis in the late 70s: joint management-union initiatives to mobilise state subsidies and local political support


–        Differences between civilian ships – military ships: not all workers were allowed to work for military ships


–        There were also temporary workers – like subcontracted workers

–        Before II. WW no collective bargaining agreements, were only established in post-war period with difficulties

–        Before II. WW Swedish management at Turku shipyard – brought several problems to only Finnish-speaking workers

–        Speciality of Finland: shipbuilding increase because of reparations to Soviet Union

–        Between “East” and “West” – latecomer on the periphery of the centre?

–        During crisis “rescued” by orders of the Soviet Union

–        Already in 1970s challenge to special-purpose vessels like passenger ferries, icebreakers


–        Careful with terminology, for instance: metal workers – iron workers

–        Different compared to other Scandinavian cases: crisis in late 80s: because of crisis in Soviet Union did not take place

–        Entanglements between Nordic countries: Finish bought Norwegian yards

West Germany

–        Literature speaks about a crisis in the shipbuilding industry in the 1970s onwards that led to a decline in West Germany – decline already appeared in the 1950s but was pushed backwards through several investments, like tankers, big bulk carriers, and finally containers

–        Literature speaks about a crisis in the workers representation that led to lost power concerning traditional acquirements like collective bargaining and participation in a regional and national framework

–        Highest employment rate in shipbuilding industry in 1958


–        Why did West German government not develop a specific strategy to a global shipbuilding market, insisted in short-term tanker and bulk building, and finally containerization without thinking about a long-term strategy

Similarities/ differences between cases:

–        Northern countries: high level production

–        Claim for 8-hour-days: already in the 19th century – Germany as model, worldwide campaign by trade unions

–        Huge negotiations about piece salaries (in all countries) – change form piece wages to hourly wages

–        Changes from casual work to stabile work

–        Subcontracting firms: early phenomenon, sometimes foreign firms, like in Sweden; subcontracting because of lack of skilled professionals, like in the 1970s in Finland; temporary workers often from foreign countries

–        Migration of workforce: caused several problems between core workers and immigrant workers (because of different wage costs), for example in Sweden; during boom period in early 1970s in Norway: many welders from Finland

–        Crisis – 1970s: crisis after boom, dependence on US and oil crisis, different strategies to crisis, exceptional case of Finland

–        Technological knowledge transfer: for instance in Finland technical cooperation agreement with Swedish Kockum shipyard in 1967 (earlier with German Germaniawerft in production of diesel engines in 1938); Norwegian managers who had studied in America and Sweden during war times

–        Transformation of the production process through introductions of several techniques (welding, block building) and impact on work situation (high skilled, division of labour)