‘FROM CRAFT TO QUALIFIED BUILDING LABOUR IN BRITAIN, A COMPARATIVE APPROACH’
The paper sets out to pinpoint and explain the position of building labour in Britain today through a historical and comparative approach. Wage relations and the division of labour in the building industry are traced through different stages of development, from the crafts and statutory trades of feudalism to the collectively-bargained skills and the social partner-negotiated qualifications of capitalism. It is shown how, since the 1970s, the progressive development of building labour has been stalled with the continued adherence to traditional trade divisions, the reassertion of managerial prerogative and the decline in direct employment, collective bargaining and training. This stagnation in development is especially apparent from comparison with the situation in Germany and the Netherlands, where qualification-based rather than output-based wage relations and industry-wide rather than trade-based skill structures are prevalent. The construction labour process in Britain remains strongly craft based with little possibility of progressing to higher technical and professional levels, unlike the permeability of continental systems. This craft form of production is shown to be associated with a relatively narrowly skilled and casually-employed workforce and with relatively low levels of productivity and industrial democracy.
Linda Clarke is Professor of European Industrial Relations in the Westminster Business School (WBS) and responsible for a distinct programme of research in the Centre for the Study of the Production of the Built Environment (ProBE), a joint research centre spanning WBS and the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE). She has a rather chequered biography, being originally educated as an art/architectural historian at the Courtauld Institute, University of London and then, inspired by Reyner Banham, going on to the Bartlett Faculty of Architecture and Planning, University College London (UCL) to complete a Master’s degree in Architectural Studies (1972) followed by a PhD (University of London 1984) in the area of social and economic history - published as Building Capitalism by Routledge (1992, reprinted 2012). She was for many years employed as a researcher in the Building Economics Research Unit (BERU) at UCL and then joined WBS, University of Westminster, in 1992, first as a researcher in the Education, Training and the Labour Market Research Group and then as a Reader. In WBS she supervises Masters dissertations and PhD students and till recently lead the International HRM module of the Masters in HRM.
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