Low Labour Intensity and Overmanning in the Royal Dockyards, 1815–1914
Low labour productivity and overmanning were a very old and intractable problem in the royal dockyards, but only acquired political prominence in the later nineteenth century. This article examines the working practices of the dockyards and the political ramifications of the poor working practices. In time of war large numbers of men are required to build and maintain the fighting fleet, but the nature of secure established employment meant it was difficult to manage and reduce the workforce in peace time. A comparison is made with workforce planning in commercial shipyards. The problem had three aspects: low productivity led to overmanning; overmanning necessitated low productivity; both were attributable to weak management and the inbreeding, and therefore entrenched attitudes, of personnel. Poor management and overmanning are identified as the consequence of an out-dated and inefficient centralized bureaucracy, rather than the root cause of the inefficiency.