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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 1999
  • Online publication date: January 2010

6 - Case studies of contemporary job loss

Summary

Threatened with the bankruptcy of their employer in 1979, a majority of workers in Chrysler plants in the United States voted in favour of substantial reductions in their wage and benefit packages in an attempt to reduce the company's need for workforce reductions. None the less, by so doing, employees tacitly endorsed the subsequent firings of thousands of their fellows. Faced with a similar situation a year later, autoworkers in Turin, rather than negotiating concessions, held out for thirty-five days in a strike against Italy's largest private employer, Fiat, a strike that paradoxically only intensified after the firm retracted its threat to effect forced dismissals and proposed temporary layoffs in their place. At the same time, neighboring Olivetti plants were laying off thousands of employees with the active cooperation of the very same union that was making national headlines with its dramatic industrial action at Fiat.

A year earlier, autoworkers across the English Channel had already conceded that large-scale workforce reductions would be required were British Leyland to recover profitability and competitiveness. Just a few years later, by contrast, British coal miners decided to fight pit closures in a year-long strike that opened in 1984, a strike garnering international attention as the country's most severe and bitter since the General Strike of 1926. Paradoxically, the 1984–85 miners' strike occurred despite repeated assurances from the National Coal Board that no miner would suffer involuntary job loss. Equally ironic was the fact that many thousands more British miners had lost their jobs over the course of the large-scale rundown of the industry that had taken place in the 1950s and 1960s, than were under threat of job loss in 1984, but the National Union of Mineworkers had at that time hardly protested.