Akın Sefer: “The mobilization of wage labour for Ottoman state factories in the 19th century”

This chapter analyses how Ottoman wage workers were mobilised to work in state factories in the mid-nineteenth century with the aim to identify and discuss the coercive dynamics of capital-labour relations within these sites. In this period of ambitious top-down reforms to modernise the economy, the Ottoman state had to face the critical question of how to reorganise labour in state factories. In an increasingly capitalist context marked by the integration of the Ottoman Empire into world markets, especially by means of free-trade agreements and the development of transportation networks, creating and maintaining a disciplined, skilled, and affordable labour force became a priority. These developments marked the struggles between the state and the working classes in this period.

Based on archival sources around the industrial establishments run by the Ottoman navy — the Imperial Arsenal and the Imperial Yarn Factory — this chapter argues that the mobilisation of wage labour for these factories was characterised by Ottoman efforts to bind individuals, and at times entire communities, to specific worksites. This created confrontations between the state and its subjects over the mobility of labour.

The discussion will rest on four illustrated cases, which will be used for in-depth analyses of how the Ottoman naval officials employed wage payment as a discursive and practical tool to justify coercion as well as to restrict the workers’ physical mobility.

Sigrid Wadauer: “Contracts under duress: Work documents as a matter and means of negotiation (Habsburg Monarchy/Austria in the late 19th and early 20th century)”

In the Habsburg Monarchy of the 19th and early 20th centuries, employment booklets for labourers and servants were mandatory documents for legal work, for travelling, and for proving one’s identity. Unlike other European countries which abolished such documents, the Habsburg Monarchy extended this obligation to ever more categories of wage laborers during this era. This chapter addresses these documents as a symbol and as a means for establishing, negotiating, and enforcing work contracts. Government authorities and employers’ organisations viewed work booklets as an indispensable precondition of control, as well as to establish trust and prohibit breach of contract. It was also argued that these papers—as certificates of work and qualifications—helped people in their search for work. However, organizations of labourers and servants described these documents as mere symbols of humiliation and of legal inequality, indeed as a ‘sign of slavery.’

Multiple conflicts are recorded concerning the contents of work references: Employers were accused of withholding documents to enforce a contract or to furnish themselves with a form of security for wage advances and debts. Individual or collective breach of contract was a violation of the trade law but, when committed by workers, also a criminal offense. Besides fines, monetary compensation or imprisonment were possible punishments. A person could likewise be forced to return to his/her workplace. Studying these different outcomes of practices and confrontations around employment booklets enables us to differentiate the diverse ways in which legal requirements were used, abused, resisted, and neglected.

Nataša Milićević and Ljubinka Škodrić: “Between salaries and coercion: The case of civil servants in occupied Serbia, 1941-1944”

How did the occupational and social conditions of Serbian civil servants develop during Nazi Germany’s occupation in the Second World War? This chapter analyzes a number of measures that affected civil servants and explores their reactions towards these top-down changes. As in other countries under Nazi occupation, civil servants in Serbia confronted the rapid decline of their living standards as well as mounting political and ideological pressure. The work that they performed became more characteristic of wartime and more complex. Numerous decrees, orders, and bans altered their prewar social position, status, and cultural capital. The formal salaries were not sufficient for their existence anymore, and high prices and food shortages, in combination with low incomes, stimulated corruption, low quality of performance, and permanent search for alternative income sources. These alternative sources included the black market and additional, often informal, jobs. Especially women were in a vulnerable position and frequently lost their jobs in the name of ‘reforms’ and ‘reorganization.’ Those who stayed, but— strikingly —also civil servants who were already retired, were expected to demonstrate that they were ‘nationally reliable’ and to publicly endorse the collaborationist regime. This expanded outside the realm of work as these men and women were required to attend propagandistic lectures
and exhibitions, for example. Despite being salaried workers, they could be readily arrested or sent to mandatory and forced work. In this light, this chapter advances our understanding of the new role and representation of civil servants in an occupied country.