Work and Technical Change

O'Neill, Brian
Publisher:  Newfoundland Association for Full Employment/Ten Days for World Development, St. John's, Canada
Year Published:  1981
Pages:  71pp   Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX2300

Work and Technological Change examines the process of the introduction of new technologies to the workplace.

Work and Technological Change examines the process of the introduction of new technologies to the workplace. The author traces the development of the "technological revolution" from the end of the 19th century. He notes that the use of labour-saving technologies stem from the competitive and productivity-seeking demands of capitalism. These new technologies affect working people in two ways. First of all, a mechanized work process tends to be boring, and workers react negatively to the pressures to increase their pace of work in this dehumanized environment. Consequently, there are constant conflicts related to the imposition of managerial control, and this is reflected in the growth in numbers of supervisory and administrative personnel in every technologically-innovative working situation.

Secondly, technological change almost always results in a reduced demand for labour. Since the turn of the century, there has been a tremendous transformation of the workforce, as jobs have been displaced from the industrial sector to the service sector of the economy. However, service work itself is becoming increasingly automated. Whereas the link between technological change and unemployment was previously obscured by the creation of service sector jobs, this connection is becoming more obvious.

The author describes how the introduction of new technologies have affected longshoremen and postal workers respectively in St. John's, Newfoundland. All of the historical and theoretical dimensions of technological change that have been documented elsewhere have been evidenced by the adverse impact of mechanization on workers on the St. John's waterfront and in the Post Office.

The author concludes that ultimately, the only resolution to the technological change issue lies in the mobilization of working people to take control of the work process themselves.
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