Workforce control and manipulation : a case study of the social relations of power in the canning industry in Ashton

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This thesis is a case study of the social relations of power within the canning industry in Ashton. The project had three main aims: 1) to document the physical situation at the two canning factories in Ashton, in order to profile the basic composition of the workforce, aspects of the labour process and working and employment conditions; 2) to examine the processes and mechanisms of control and then 3) to use the first two aims as a basis to take stock of what this control means in terms of workers lives: i.e. examining the lived experience of 'control'. I adopted a primarily qualitatively focused approach and used a combination of interviews and group discussions to elicit the information necessary to inform these aims. The results showed how in the logic of capitalist development, pre-existing social divisions are exploited. The interaction of these pre-existing social divisions within the structure of the workforce, combined with deliberate control mechanisms serves to divide, atomise and thereby control the workforce. I found the workers to be divided by gender and race, these divisions are intensified by differences between whether workers have seasonal or permanent employment and where they live. These divisions, aggravated by differences, are then combined with the deliberate use of piecework, the assembly line and the factories recruitment system. Workers experienced most of these control mechanisms as normal and natural and are mostly thankful to have work.

Bibliography: leaves. [141-145].