Arbeidsmarktstrategieën in de Belgische mijnindustrie tot 1940
Title: Arbeidsmarktstrategieën in de Belgische mijnindustrie tot 1940
Author: CAESTECKER, Frank
Citation: Tijdschrift voor sociale en economische geschiedenis, 2008, Vol. 5, No. 3, pp. 30-52
This article analyses the composition of the labour force in the Belgian mining industry from the early nineteenth century until 1940. The recruitment of labour and the settlement of workers in the mining profession are analysed within changes in the economic structure of Belgium. Also the organisation of work, technological innovations, social ambitions and political factors had an input in how this work force changed during this time period. In the mining industry a core of miners assured basic production, while peaks in demand were met by hiring casual labourers. The mining companies had great difficulties to assemble a stable and full-time body of manpower to assure permanent extraction. During the nineteenth century peasants from the Walloon countryside grudgingly resigned themselves to the new industrial order. At the end of the nineteenth century the Walloon miners, by then miners since generations deserted the mines and were replaced by Flemish peasants. The availability of cheap transport, due to political considerations, enlarged considerably the choices available to the labour surplus in the Flemish countryside. They commuted on a weekly and increasingly daily basis to the cities and industrial basins. The loyalty of the Flemish workers to the mining profession was remarkably limited. The desertion of Walloon miners called however for the immigration of a settler population. The mining companies resorted to recruiting foreign labour. At the end of the interwar period foreign labour had become an indispensable part of the labour force in the Belgian mining industry.
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