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

By Elaine Glovka Spencer | Go to book overview

9
Containment

Resistance to Government Regulation

During the years of prosperity from 1905 to 1907, Ruhr industrialists had been on the defensive in their confrontations with labor. Their need for workers was pressing. They could ill afford long disruptions of production in view of the strong demand for coal, iron, and steel. The recession years of 1908 and 1909 gave the entrepreneurial elite a chance to regroup and to strengthen its position. The creation of the Zechenverband in 1908 and the labor exchanges in 1909 was part of this attempt. After 1907, labor agitation decreased sharply, so management had less to worry about on that front. But government attempts to regulate working conditions continued. Ruhr industrialists were already bitter about state interference, especially after the strike of 1905. Now that they were momentarily free of significant union pressure, they concentrated on opposing government intervention.

In 1908 the government made its first feeble attempt to regulate working conditions in primary iron and steel production. The proposed regulation was mild, but the leaders of the iron and steel industry feared that if it were successful, more extensive controls would follow. Iron and steel industrialists were unaccustomed to outside interference in labor questions. They objected more to the principle of state intervention than to the actual proposal. Government involvement seemed to them both malicious and mischievous.

The new regulation was issued by the Bundersrat under its power to protect the health of laborers. Its main purpose was to limit the excessive hours of iron- and steelworkers. This was an issue on which the industry was particularly vulnerable to attack because much of its work force put in hours significantly longer than the norm in other kinds of production. The debate on hours of labor in metallurgy stimulated by the Bundesrat order of 1908 was to find no satisfactory resolution prior to 1914.

The characteristic work day in the iron and steel industry lasted from 6 A.M. to 6 P.M., with quarter-hour pauses in the morning and afternoon and an hour-and-a-half pause for lunch at midday. However, in those

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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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