Trade Union Ancestors

From illegality to a role in government: a trade union timeline

 

Trade unionists demonstrate in Copenhagen Fields to protest at the deportation of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, 21 April 1834

1799 and 1800 Combination Acts: virtually all trade union activity illegal and subject to three months imprisonment by the justices of the peace

1801 Henry Addington takes office as Tory prime minister

1804 William Pitt the younger takes office as Tory prime minister

1806 Lord Grenville takes office as Whig prime minister

1807 Duke of Portland takes office as Whig prime minister

1809 Spencer Perceval takes office as Tory prime minister

1812 Lord Liverpool takes office as Tory prime minister

1819 First Factory Act stops children under nine from working in factories and limits those aged nine to 16 to 72 hours

1824 Combination Acts repealed; Steam Engine Makers Society formed

1825 New Combination Act restricts union activities

1826 Journeymen Steam Engine, Machine Makers and Millwrights Friendly Society formed

1827 George Canning takes office as Tory prime minister; Viscount Goderich takes office as Tory prime minister

1828 Duke of Wellington takes office as Tory prime minister

1830 Whig government takes office under Earl Grey

1831 Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons of England, Ireland and Wales and United Operative Masons Association of Scotland founded

1833 Grand National Consolidated Trades Union formed

1834 Trial of “Tolpuddle Martyrs” followed by transportation to Australia; Tobacco Workers Union begins life as Friendly Society of Operative Tobacconists

1837 First of the Tolpuddle Martyrs return to England; Whigs re-elected under Lord Melbourne

1841 Conservative government elected under Sir Robert Peel

1842 General Strike across the Midlands and North of England over wage cuts

1845 National Association of United Trades formed as a trade union co-ordinating body; London Society of Compositors founded

1847 Ten Hours Act restricts working time for women and young people; Whig government elected under Lord Russell

1849 Typographical Association founded

1851 Amalgamated Society of Engineers formed – first of the “New Model” unions

1852 Tory government elected under Lord Aberdeen

1854 Association of Correctors of the Press founded

1855 Lord Palmerston takes over as Liberal prime minister

1857 Liberals returned to office under Palmerston

1858 Earl of Derby takes office as Conservative prime minister

1859 Liberal government re-elected under Palmerston; building employers seek to introduce "the document" forcing workers to give up union membership in response to campaign for nine-hour day, leading to six-month lock-out and strike across London

1860 London Trades Council formed; emergence of the "Junta" of London Trades Council leadership as de facto national leadership of the trade union movement; Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners founded; Coal Mine Regulations Act forbids the employment of boys under 12 years old underground

1865 Lord Russell takes over as Liberal prime minister

1866 Conservative government takes office under Earl of Derby; Manchester Trades Council formed; In Hornby v Close, the courts rule that trade union funds are not protected against embezzlement under the Friendly Societies Act 1855 as trade unions remain illegal though not criminal bodies; Royal Commission on Trade Unions begins work following Sheffield “outrages” in which a local union leader used gunpowder to blow up the house of a non-member

1867 Master and Servant Act liberalises the law on conspiracy relating to wage earners’ contract of service

1868 First meeting of the Trades Union Congress in Manchester, C W Bowerman becomes secretary to its parliamentary committee; Benjamin Disraeli takes office as Conservative prime minister; Liberal government elected under William Ewart Gladstone

1869 George Potter becomes secretary to the parliamentary committee of the TUC

1870 National Union of Elementary Teachers (later National Union of Teachers) founded

1871 Trade Union Act allows Registrar of Friendly Societies to register trade unions and provides a legal basis for their activities and protection for their funds; Criminal Law Amendment Act makes picketing a criminal offence; Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants founded

1872 Joseph Arch forms National Agricultural Labourers’ Union; George Odger becomes secretary to the parliamentary committee of the TUC

1873 George Howell becomes secretary to the parliamentary committee of the TUC

1874 Conservative government elected under Disraeli

1875 Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act legalises picketing once again

1876 Trade Union Amendment Act protects union funds; Henry Broadhurst becomes secretary to the parliamentary committee of the TUC

1880 Liberal government elected under Gladstone; Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen founded

1885 George Shipton becomes secretary to the parliamentary committee of the TUC; Conservative government elected under Marquess of Salisbury

1886 Henry Broadhurst becomes secretary to the parliamentary committee of the TUC for the second time; Gladstone returns as Liberal prime minister; Salisbury re-elected as Conservative prime minister

1888 Miners Federation formed; strike by matchgirls at Bryant & May factory in London’s East End; first successful equal pay resolution at TUC conference

Members of the Municipal Employees Association Stepney Branch Committee in 1901

1889 London dock strike; gasworkers’ strike; Electrical Trades Union formed; Postmen's Union formed

1890 Charles Fenwick becomes secretary to the parliamentary committee of the TUC

1892 Liberal government elected under Gladstone

1894 Trade union membership at 1.5 million; Sam Woods becomes secretary to the parliamentary committee of the TUC; Lord Rosebury takes office as Liberal prime minister

1895 TUC excludes trades councils from separate representation at congress; Conservative government elected under Salisbury

1896 Conciliation (Trades Disputes) Act empowers the Board of Trade to appoint conciliators and abitrators in industrial disputes if asked to do so

1901 Taff Vale judgement makes union funds liable for damages caused by strikes

1902 Arthur Balfour takes office as Conservative prime minister

1905 Liberal government takes office under Henry Campbell-Bannermen; W C Steadman becomes secretary to the parliamentary committee of the TUC; National Association of Local Government Officers founded

1906 National Federation of Women Workers formed; Trade Disputes Act reverses Taff Vale judgement; Labour Representation Committee formed following general election with 29 MPs

1908 Herbert Henry Asquith takes office as Liberal prime minister

1909 Osborne judgement forbids unions to give financial support to Labour candidates; National Agricultural Labourers and Rural Workers Union founded

1911 Printers’ strike leads to publication of Daily Herald; C W Bowerman becomes secretary to the parliamentary committee of the TUC

1913 National Union of Railwaymen formed; Trade Union Act gives unions the right to form separate political funds after a ballot, with individual members able to opt out

1914 TUC declares “industrial truce” for duration of war; trade union membership at 4.1 million

1915 Unofficial strikes by munitions workers on the Clyde; shop stewards’ movement emerges in defiance of official TUC leadership's willingness to work with government in support of the war effort

1916 David Lloyd George takes office as Liberal prime minister

1917 Trade Union Amalgamations Act makes mergers and amalgamations easier, leading to the creation of the Amalgamated Engineering Union (1920), Transport and General Workers Union (1922) and General and Municipal Workers Union (1924); National Foremen's Association founded

1918 57 Labour MPs elected in Liberal landslide general election; National Union of Scientific Workers founded

1919 35 million days lost to strikes as industrial action sweeps many industries; Police Act bars police officers from joining a union or taking industrial action

1920 Trade union membership at 8.3 million; Amalgamated Engineering Union formed, bringing together 10 engineering unions.

1921 C W Bowerman becomes the first general secretary of the TUC when the general council replaces the parliamentary committee

1922 Conservative government elected under Andrew Bonar Law; Labour takes 142 seats

1923 Stanley Baldwin takes office as Conservative prime minister; Fred Bramley becomes secretary of the TUC

1924 First minority Labour government takes office under James Ramsay MacDonald; Conservative government elected under Baldwin

1925 Walter Citrine becames acting general secretary of the TUC, taking on the post permanently in 1926

1926 General strike over wage cuts in mining industry: Royal Commission appointed in response to the defeat of attempts to cut wages in 1925 backs employers; strike begins on 4 May, backed by TUC general council; government responds by calling in troops and volunteers to break strike; TUC issues order to return to work on 12 May having effectively surrendered; miners remain on strike until end of November

1927 Trade Disputes Act forces civil service unions to leave the TUC and imposes restrictions on picketing, strike action in sympathy with workes in other industries made illegal

1929 Second minority Labour government elected under MacDonald; Labour the largest party with 288 MPs

1931 MacDonald and Snowden (chancellor of the exchequer) seek to cut unemployment benefits and public spending in response to poor economic situation, but are opposed by TUC general council and most cabinet ministers; general election leads to creation of National (Conservative) government under MacDonald

1933 Trade union membership at 4.4 million

1935 Baldwin takes office as Conservative prime minister

1937 Neville Chamberlain takes office as Conservative prime minister

1939 Bridlington Agreement between TUC unions bans poaching of members

1940 Winston Churchill takes office as prime minister in coalition government

1942 Amalgamated Engineering Union admits women for first time, signing up 139,000 within a year

1943 In the wake of strikes by bus drivers and dock workers in Liverpool, Defence Regulation 1AA makes incitement to strikes illegal; Amalgamated Engineering Union admits women

1945 First majority Labour government elected under Clement Attlee; National Union of Mineworkers founded; World Federation of Trade Unions unites international union movement, but American Federation of Labor remains outside

1946 Repeal of Trades Disputes and Trade Unions Act 1927 allows civil service union to affiliate to the TUC; Bank of England nationalised

1947 National Coal Board created on 1 January, taking coal industry into public ownership; Vincent Tewson becomes secretary of the TUC

1948 TUC and other Western European unions leave World Federation of Trade Unions to created International Confederation of Free Trade Unions while Soviet bloc unions remain in WFTU

1951 Conservative government elected under Churchill

1955 Athony Eden takes office as Conservative prime minister; engineers and electricians working on Fleet Street strike for three weeks, preventing publication of daily newspapers; train drivers in Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen strike for more than two weeks over pay claim

1956 Transport and General Workers Union moves left with election of Frank Cousins as general secretary

1957 Harold Macmillan takes office as Conservative prime minister

1958 Congress House opens as headquarters of the TUC

1959 National Amalgamated Stevedors and Dockers union expelled from TUC after five-year dispute over the poaching of TGWU members; George Woodcock becomes general secretary of the TUC

1961 TUC expels Electrical Trades Union over allegations of ballot rigging, but is readmitted in 1962 after Communist leadership is ousted in fresh elections by right-wing grouping

1963 Contracts of Employment Act requires employers to give minimum period of notice; Sir Alec Douglas Home takes office as Conservative prime minister

1964 Labour government elected under Harold Wilson

1965 Redundancy Payments Act requires consultation and compensation payments

1968 Royal Commission on Trade Unions (Donovan Commission) recommends continuation of self-regulation

1969 In Place of Strife white paper recommends statutory pre-strike ballots and improved recognition rights; Vic Feather becomes general secretary of the TUC

1970 Conservative government elected under Edward Heath

1971 Industrial Relations Act requires unions to register, and makes all collective agreements legally enforceable through an Industrial Relations Court

1972 Miners’ strike; dock workers’ strike

1973 Len Murray becomes general secretary of the TUC

1974 Miners’ strike; Labour government elected (general elections in February and October) under Harold Wilson; Trade Union and Labour Relations Act replaces Industrial Relations Act; Health and Safety at Work Act passed

1975 Equal Pay Act requires employers to pay men and women the same rates for the same work

1976 James Callaghan takes office as Labour prime minister

Jayaben Desai - a leading light in the Grunwick strike of 1977

1978-79 Winter of discontent sees many public sector disputes

1979 Conservative government elected under Margaret Thatcher

1980 Trade union membership peaks at 13 million

1980-1993 Six Employment Acts restrict industrial action by requiring pre-strike ballots, outlawing secondary action, restricting picketing and giving employers the right to seek injunctions where there is doubt about the legality of action.

1984 Norman Willis becomes general secretary of the TUC; year long miners’ strike over pit closures ends in defeat

1986 Print workers’ dispute with Rupert Murdoch of News International ends in derecognition at News International

1990 John Major takes office as Conservative prime minister

1993 John Monks becomes general secretary of the TUC; Unison created by merger of NALGO, National Union of Public Employees and Confederation of Health Service Employees

1994 Wages Councils abolished

1997 Labour government elected under Tony Blair

1998 National Minimum Wage Act sets legal minimum rates

1999 Employment Relations Act introduces statutory right to trade union recognition where supported by a majority of the workforce (effectiuve 2000)

2002 Merger between the Manufacturing, Science and Finance Union and the Amalgamated Electrical and Engineering Union creates Amicus

2003 Brendan Barber becomes general secretary of the TUC

2004 Banking union Unifi and Graphical, Paper and Media Union merge with Amicus

2005 Women outnumber men among trade union members for the first time; trade union membership at 7.5 million; number of days' work lost to industrial disputes at lowest point on record

2006 More than one million local government workers strike over threats to their pension scheme; University and College Union formed through merger of Association of University Teachers and National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education

2007 Unite formed from amalgamation of Transport and General Workers Union with Amicus

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