Women production workers’ introduction into a Norwegian Shipyard 1965–1989

We investigate women’s introduction to skilled production jobs in Norway’s largest shipyard, 1965–89, estimating the experiment’s success. We analyse the difficulties experienced in adapting working conditions and culture to the women entrants, using a theoretical industrial relations/occupational health and safety lens. Working conditions resulted in considerable occupational illness among the women. Job tenure was therefore short, helping sustain an intra-occupational gender pay gap. A management-union alliance established and maintained women’s ‘reserve’ and ‘helper’ statuses. Women’s collective voice was highly circumscribed. Our evidence supports previous arguments that social and industrial relations configurations were among Norwegian yards’ problems in responding to powerful global competitive pressures. However, we argue that management-union cooperation, rather than conflict, underlie this experiment’s limited success.