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16 October 2014
Social Change: Employment 1945 to 1979

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The workers

Shipbuilding created thousands of jobs which required a variety of different skills: in the heavy industries like coal, iron and steel which provided raw materials; in the yards themselves, constructing the frames and fitting them out; and in other firms which supplied furnishings. Many jobs or trades in the shipyards required boys to serve an apprenticeship for several years before they could qualify to become a fully paid member of that trade. Members of these trades were unwilling to allow female workers to be employed in peacetime. Only when laws were passed against sex discrimination in pay (1970 and 1984), and in employment (1975), could female workers enjoy full equality when employed in shipbuilding.

After 1945, Scottish shipbuilding suffered from poor management and a lack of major investment in new technology. Welding replaced riveting but most working methods remained the same. It was a hard life and the men in the yards stuck stubbornly to traditional ways of working. Shipbuilding suffered from frequent strikes, arising from restrictive practices involving demarcation disputes; only workers who were qualified in certain trades could do certain jobs. British shipyards acquired a reputation for high costs and the late delivery of completed ships. From 1960, shipbuilding went into a steep decline. But the men who built the ships were still fiercely sentimental about their work.


Picture of John Carty.

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