The Rise and Fall of Autonomous Group Working in the British Coal Mining Industry
Teamwork is written of in much of the literature as a comparatively recent phenomenon, usually associated with Japanese systems of work organisation. In reality, the social relations of work in many industries have at times been organised around the work group. The differences between the concept of group-work and that of teamwork lie in the social, political and economic forces that shape the employment relationship, specifically, where the balance of power lies within the labour process, and consequently, in who is able to define that relationship. This paper will demonstrate that, in contrast to the rhetoric associated with contemporary teamwork, the group organisation of work in the British mining industry brought to the workers involved significant levels of autonomy; the ability to define the social relations of work; high levels of control over the labour process; and a strong and lasting commitment - to the group. The paper uses very specific gendered language. This is inevitable because the paper is concerned with an industry with a very specific gender profile.