Management and Labor in Imperial Germany: Ruhr Industrialists as Employers, 1896-1914

By Elaine Glovka Spencer | Go to book overview

7
The Terms of Labor

Wages

Compared to employer-sponsored social services such as pensions and housing, with their high potential for abuse and their deceptive publicity, entrepreneurial wage policies were a more accurate measure of the industrialist's contribution to his workers' well-being. In general, wage policies reflected the same underlying characteristics that determined the administration and distribution of welfare benefits. As they did with social services, apologists for Ruhr heavy industry emphasized the "generosity" of wage payments. Employee earnings were invariably described as being as high as was consistent with the continued prosperity of industry. Employers pointed to the rapid rise in money wages after 1896. Consumer prices, however, also increased, especially during the last prewar decade, and on balance, real earnings per shift of coal, iron, and steel workers were little higher in 1913 than they had been in 1896, and not as high as in 1900. The increase in real wages during the boom of the late 1890s, when competition for workers had been particularly intense, was reversed by cuts in nominal and real wages during the recession of 1901-1902. Those losses were not made good, in many cases, until 1907. The recession of 1908-1909 brought renewed cuts. Nominal wages surged again during the last prewar boom but most of these gains were eaten up by the rising cost of living. 1

Ruhr employers liked to stress that their workers were among the best paid in Germany. Was that claim justified? Information on industrial wage differentials prior to 1913 is scanty. However, a study by the Imperial Statistical Bureau of wages paid in 370 establishments in March 1914 listed average daily earnings of male and female workers in twelve basic industries. Only the earnings of male workers will be used for comparison, as Ruhr heavy industry did not employ women. Of the twelve industries reported, printing, with its highly skilled labor force, ranked highest with male workers earning a daily average of 6.50 marks. The next three highest paying industries listed, namely, metal, machine building, and chemicals, paid 5.54 marks, 5.32 marks, and 5.16 marks, respectively. Compared to these average daily earnings, hewers and haulers in coal mines in the area

-80-

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Management and Labor in Imperial Germany: Ruhr Industrialists as Employers, 1896-1914
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Coal, Iron, and Steel 8
  • 2 - The Entrepreneurial Elite 24
  • 3 - Ruhr Workers 40
  • 4 - Industry and Government 52
  • 5 - Initial Challenges 63
  • 6 - Company Welfare Programs 71
  • 7 - The Terms of Labor 80
  • 8 - Conflict and Readjustment 98
  • 9 - Containment 114
  • 10 - Unsolved Problems 130
  • Conclusion and Comparisons 139
  • Appendix A Ruhr Coal, Iron, and Steel Corporations 149
  • Appendix B Members of the Ruhr Entrepreneurial Elite 151
  • Notes 157
  • Bibliography 189
  • Index 205
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