Labour Relations in the Dutch Margarine Industry 1870–1954

Marlou Schrover
1990 History Workshop Journal  
Workers in the wrapping department of Van den Bergh factory in Rotterdam c. 1910 Labour Relations in the Dutch Margarine Industry 1870-1954 by Marlou Schrover A number of new industries were born at the end of the last century, in a manner resembling Aphrodite's rising from the sea. These industries are characterized by an abrupt start, in contrast with other industries that evolved from a traditional craft to a modern industry along an elaborate route of inventions and innovations. Each of
more » ... e new industries began after one invention, that was so important for the industry concerned that it changed everything. Only the similarity between the final product and the original was maintained. Artificial silk resembled silk, artificial butter resembled normal butter and traditional soap resembled modern soap; yet the industries that produced rayon, margarine and modern soap in no way resembled the crafts that had brought forth the traditional products. Raw materials were used in an unprecedented way and machinery had to be developed. The new industries also brought forth a new type of workers. With no traditional bonds to fall back on, these workers proved difficult to organize. This will be illustrated by the labour relations in one of the most important new Dutch industries: the margarine industry. The margarine industry is not a labour intensive industry. Wages never constituted more than 5% of the total costs. Even at its height, just after the first World War, the industry employed fewer than 8,000 people in the
doi:10.1093/hwj/30.1.55 fatcat:w7jfn3jud5gchnicjxulkcfzg4