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More with Less

More with Less: Work Reorganization in the Canadian Mining Industry

  • Book Info
    More with Less
    Book Description:

    Explores the changing character of industrial relations and labour processes in two staple industries, potash and uranium mining, through an innovative case-analytic approach that compares the managerial strategies used by five transnational firms.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7738-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Figures
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-27)

    On the afternoon of 24 May 1988 workers at the Cory Potash mine on the outskirts of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, were devastated to learn that in five weeks, over two-thirds of their number would be permanently laid off. The mine/mill operation in question was owned by the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (PCS), the worldʼs largest producer of potassium chloride, one of the three principal ingredients in commercial farm fertilizers. The downsizing came without prior warning, or the usual rumour-mill activity. Indeed, only two weeks earlier the companyʼs CEO had made a video appearance before workers with an upbeat message on improving...

  7. 2 Market Preliminaries: Product and Labour Markets in the Potash and Uranium Industries
    (pp. 28-51)

    Over the last twenty years, the unleashing of market forces in one political jurisdiction after another has contributed in some circles to the credence of a form of ʻmarket determinismʼ in social analysis. According to such approaches, social relationships, indeed society itself, is reducible to the laws of the market place. In one infamous quip, society itself no longer exists. In a stunningly unconscious, yet ultimately erroneous inversion of Karl Polanyi, only the immutable laws of the market have anything other than a fictive existence in todayʼs world.¹

    The inadequacy of such a position is particularly obvious in the study...

  8. 3 Corporate Cultures of Employment I: Two Traditional Firms
    (pp. 52-74)

    In one of his better-known passages, Marx writes that the sole difference between various historical modes of production amounts to ʻThe specific economic form, in which unpaid surplus-labour is pumped out of the direct producers.ʼ¹ Just as important for our purposes is the coda that Marx adds to this: ʻThis does not prevent the same economic basis ... from showing infinite variations and gradations in appearance, which can be ascertained only by analysis of the empirically given circumstances.ʼ² It is this qualification that is of interest here, for capital accumulation can itself support an astonishing variety of workplace relations, within...

  9. 4 Corporate Cultures of Employment II: Two Post-Fordist Firms
    (pp. 75-110)

    The two remaining companies differ from their corporate cousins in so far as they have made moves away from the Fordist protocols that define the organization of work at PCS and Key Lake. Of course, what I am referring to are matters of degree. Thus, the notions of Fordist and post-Fordist industrial relations will continue to be used as heuristic markers for social trends and not as reification. As social trends in management, there is nothing sacrosanct about them. What is in vogue today (yesterday) may be already passing into disfavour tomorrow (today). So, with these qualifications in mind, we...

  10. 5 The Labour Process
    (pp. 111-161)

    The labour process has been eluded to on numerous occasions already with references to specific pieces of equipment (borers, bridges, and skips), working conditions (dust and fines), and procedures, such as compaction, flotation, crystallization, and reagents. It is now time to take the reader into a more detailed account of contemporary mine and milling techniques. Both the specific companies chosen for investigation in this study and the industry as a whole offer a rich vantage point from which to consider the contemporary labour process and claims made on behalf of post-Fordist and post-industrial theories of work.

    In the first section...

  11. 6 Production Politics at Five Mine Sites
    (pp. 162-194)

    Along with the imputed skill effects that have been attributed to new forms of work organization, such practices are also claimed to support a better overall industrial relations climate at the workplace. Although skill trends and industrial relations are obviously interrelated, broader labour/management relations require assessment in their own right. In other words, industrial relations have a certain autonomy from labour processes, which must be taken into consideration in any analysis of workplace reorganization.

    Canadian political economist H.C. Pentland provides a useful starting point in his characterization of industrial relations as those activities associated with ʻmarshaling the working population to...

  12. 7 Final Reflections
    (pp. 195-200)

    Over the course of this study, two large-scale industrial conflicts took place to which I had ʹprivilegedʼ access. The first, I have already had occasion to mention, in some detail. It involved renewal of the 1994 collective agreement at Agrium. This dispute, which culminated in a one-day strike followed by agreement on a two-year extension of the existing contract (that is, status quo), was marked by a distinctive clash of vision. The union membership sought greater job security. In concrete terms, this included clear-cut language on employee seniority and its role in the workplace, and an unemployment insurance top-up program...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 201-232)
  14. References
    (pp. 233-242)
  15. Index
    (pp. 243-251)