(Re)making bread : industrial technologies and the skills of food industry workers
The global food industry continues to grow through mergers and acquisitions. The consolidation of grocery chains has necessarily led to increasingly large, heavily industrialized food processing firms. These manufacturers rely on large-scale, automated and mechanized production technologies to deliver controlled, consistent, and safe products to retailers. Using Braverman’s (1974) deskilling thesis, and Standing’s (1992) three-part definition of skill as the basis for investigation, this research explores the effects of technological changes on the skills of food workers and focuses on the baking industry. The primary research site is the in-store bakery of a Co-op grocery store in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Observation took place over a two-week period, and semi-structured interviews were conducted with the bakers in the facility. Other research sites included two large-scale industrial bakeries in western Canada and a flour milling facility in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The bread-making processes involved at the research sites are compared, and the impact of the technologies on the skills of workers at each site is discussed. The findings from the research support Braverman’s deskilling thesis that bakers in the industrialized food system are experiencing deskilling. This erosion of skills is not only a result of the technological changes, but also, more importantly, the result of the social relations of production. The research also explores Human Resources and Social Development Canada’s Essential Skills program. The findings of the research support the argument that the Essential Skills program is a classification scheme that is rooted in scientific management, and can serve to marginalize workers employed in non-knowledge-based occupations. Discussion of the findings also points toward the need to investigate different forms of ownership and their role in preserving the skills and knowledge of workers.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
SupervisorGertler, Michael E.
CommitteeFindlay, Leonard M. (Len); Clarke, Louise; Jaffe, JoAnn