International Meetings and Conferences

III International Workshop

“In The Same Boat: Shipbuilding and ship repair workers: a global labour history”

Lisbon, 13-15 October 2014.

Universidade Nova de Lisboa




Participants: Raquel Varela, Marcel van der Linden, Hugh Murphy, Elina Pessanha, Hans-Jakob Ågotnes, Jan Heiret, Giulia Strippoli, Jorge Fontes, Marco Caligari, Kari Teras, Kazuya Sakurada, Robin Dearmon Muhammad, Ruben Vega, Sarah Graber Majchrzak, Ana Rajado.

On October 13 and 14, 2014 the collaborative team of researchers met to discuss each chapter of the forthcoming volume of In the Same Boat: Shipbuilding and ship repair workers: a global labour history. The event was organized by the Institute of Contemporary History (IHC) and coordinated by Giulia Strippoli and Jorge Fontes The workshop took place at the New University of Lisbon (Universidade Nova de Lisboa).

During the first session, the group reviewed 23 chapters and exchanged commentary for improvement of the final drafts. Following the morning session, the work groups represented by Elinha Pessanha and Ruben Vega reported on their findings. At the conclusion, the team set the tentative dates for all work groups to present first drafts of a new research project focusing on specific subjects in shipbuilding such as productivity, work culture, and the role of the State.

Following this two-day workshop, the team visited the Lisnave shipyard






Iberoamerican Workshop ( Argentina , Brazil and Spain )

Buenos Aires – La Plata, 18 to 22 November 2013

Participants: Elina Peshanha Ruben Vega, José Alen , Cintia Russo and Juliana Frassa






1.Guided tour of the Astillero Rio Santiago : view of the production process , visit the company museum , meetings with managers and workers who were part of the resistance movements against privatization in the 90s .

· Lecture at the University of La Plata on “Social Movements in Spain and Brazil. New and old forms of popular mobilization, ” by Elina Peshana Jose Alen and Ruben Garcia

2.Workshop of “The shipbuilding industry in Argentina, Brazil and Spain ( 1950-2012 ) . A comparative perspective “at the National University of Quilmes.

We work on the publication of the paper on “The role of the state in the shipbuilding industry: Argentina, Brazil, Spain and Portugal.” (to be published by the Department of Economics and Management UNQ )

· Debate on two of the transversal topics of the group of global history of labor in the shipbuilding industry: ‘ the role of the state in the shipbuilding industry and’ work culture and identity ‘ .

· Lecture on the restructuring of the shipbuilding industry in Argentina , Brazil , and Spain( 1950-2010 ) .

3.  Lecture on “Working-class’ consciousness and utopias| in the twentieth century through songs” by Ruben Vega and José Alen National University Jauretche.

Scandinavian Shipbuilding Labour History


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)

II Workshop In The Same Boat: Shipbuilding and ship repair workers: a global labour history (1950-2010)”

International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam 22-26 May 2013


Program May 22 (Wednesday) Opening: IISH/Re-work/ Frits Loomeijer Session 1 – 10:30h to 12:30h

Work, Workers and labour conflicts in the shipyard Bazán/Navantia, 1950-2010 José Gómez Alén (Fundación de Investigaciones Marxistas- Madrid)

Working Outside the Box: Shipbuilding, Shipbreaking, and Containterization in the United States, 1950-2000. Robin Muhammad (Ohio University – USA)

Shipbuilding and ship repairs in Thailand during neoliberalism transition Nicola Mocci (University of Cagliari –Thailand)

Lunch time (at IISH) – 12:30 to 13:30 Session 2 – 13:30h to 15:30h

The Situation of the “Bremer Vulkan” in the 1980s: an Example of the West German Shipbuilding Industry in the Second Half of the 20th Century. Johanna Wolf (University of Leipzig)

The Development and Re-organization of Industrial Structures of the shipbuilding in Postwar Japan: A General Outline Takeshi Haragucho (Kobe University – Japan)

Evolution and development of Shipbuilding Industry in Maharashtra (India) from 1970s: Employer, Employee and Production perspective” S.M. Fahimuddin Pasha (Assistant Manager in Computer Society of India – India)

Coffee Break – 15:30 to 15:45 Session 3 – 15:45 to 17:45

The evolution of labor relations in Korean shipbuilding industry: A case study on the Hanjin Heavy Industries, 1950-2010 Wonchul Shin (Associate Professor Pusan National University Busan – South Korea)

An Overview of Labour in the British Shipbuilding and Ship repairing Industries in the Twentieth Century’ Hugh Murphy (Visiting Reader in Maritime History, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich – Great Britain)

Production and workers between tradition and innovation: Caneco and Rio Nave, two companies and one shipyard Elina da Fonte Pessanha and Luísa Barbosa Pereira (Federal University of Brazil – Brazil)

Coffee Break – 17:45 to 18:00 Comments by Jan Lucassen 18:00 to 19:00

May 23 (Thursday) Session 4 – 9:00 to 11:30

From boom to bust: Kockums 1950-1987 Tobias Karlsson (Lund University – Sweden )

Shipbuilding labour in Fincantieri Valter Zanin (University of Padova – Italy)

Productive and organizational challenges of a State-owned enterprise. The case of Argentinean Shipyard Río Santiago Juliana Frassa (University of La Plata – Argentine)

Forced Silence, Full Scale Fight, and Negotiated Peace: The Transition of Industrial Relations at the Hyundai Shipyard, 1972-2012 Jun Kim – National Assembly Research Service, Korea

Coffee Break – 11:30 to 11:45 Session 5 – 11:45h to 13:45h

The Norwegian shipbuilding industry 1950 – 2010: production systems, rationalization and labour relations Hans-Jakob Ågotnes, Jan Heiret (University of Bergen-Norway)

Argentina shipbuilding industry: the State as problem and solution Cintia Russo (Nacional University of Quilmes – Argentine)

Sestri Ponente shipyard. Workers, production and labour relations from 1950 until 2010 Giulia Strippoli, Davide Tabor, Luciano Villani (Italy)

Lunch time (at IISH) – 14:00 to 14:45 Session 6 – 14:45 to 6:45

Labour Force in Lisnave, Portugal: an overview Raquel Varela (IHC-Nova University of Lisbon / IISH)

Working in the Lenin Shipyard: Shipbuilding Industry in the People’s Republic of Poland in the 1970s and 1980s Sara Graber (Centre for Contemporary History Potsdam – ZZF)

Shipowners and Politicians: Capital Accumulation and Labour Regime at the Desan Shipyard, Istanbul, Turkey (1991-2013) Asli Odman (Istanbul Health and Safety Labor Watch – Turkey)

From reparations to cruise ships. Productional changes and labour relations in the Turku shipyard, 1950-2010 Kari Teräs (University of Tampere – Finland )

Coffee Break – 17:00 to 17:15 Comments by Matthias Middell 17:15 to 18:30

May 24 (Friday) Session 7– 9:00 to 11:00

French Saint-Nazaire’s shipyards from struggles of glorious postwar years to challenges of globalization age (1950-2010) Eric Kocher-Marboeuf

The Russian case – first results of an investigation Matthias Middell – (CAS-University of Leipzig)

Shipbuilding industry in Portugal: Labour relations in Mitrena shipyard (1974-1995) Jorge Fontes (IHC- Nova University of Lisbon)

Coffee Break – 11:00 to 11:15 Session 8 – 11:15 to 13:15

Shipbuilding labour in China Paula Nabuco (Fluminense Federal University – Brazil)

Against market rules. A shipyard nobody wanted (except workers) Ruben Vega Garcia (University of Oviedo – Spain)

Cockatoo Island, Australia – industry, labour and protest culture Lisa Milner (Southern Cross University – Australia)

Lunch time – 13:15 to 14:00 Debates – 14:00 to 17:00

1- Debate on outlines of the second stage of the project: In the Same Boat? Shipbuilding and ship repair workers: a global labour history (1950-2010)

2- Define teams Comments: Marcel Van der Linden Coffee Break – 17:00 to 17:15 Workshop closure by Raquel Varela 17:15 to 18:30

Dinner in Amsterdam (offered by the IISH)

May 25 (Saturday) 10:00 – Excursion 6:00 – Drink at Boulevard Café

Leipzig Workshop    Our first International Meeting. Leipzieg, June 2012


Global Labour History in Perspective
Shipbuilding Industry and Globalization since 1950

By examining shipbuilding since 1950, the global importance of the industry in transportation, global trade, commodity chains, steel production, and military defence can be highlighted. The economic crisis of the 1970s and 1980s led to a global structural change in the industry. With shipbuilding, along with mining and steel production, being important industries in Europe and Japan, the consequences of the crisis
resulted in the reorganization of Western European and Scandinavian shipyards and production methods. Due to intense international competition in the shipbuilding market, production centres began to be relocated to East Asia and other newly industrialized countries.

The workshop brings together some twenty researchers from different world regions who will provide insight in labour history and labour conflicts from different shipbuilding territories. The workshop arises
from a global labour history project, under the initiative of the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam as well as following the approach of earlier comparative studies on the history of dockworkers and of textile workers. The workshop is promoted and developed by the Centre for Area Studies at the University of Leipzig.


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