Association of Professional, Executive, Clerical and Computer Staffs

This is the story of the Association of Professional, Executive, Clerical and Computer Staffs (Apex), including the National Union of Clerks, Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries, and Clerical and Administrative Workers Union.

After an early informal start as the Clerks Union or Metropolitan Clerks Union, the National Union of Clerks was established in 1890 in London, where it was involved in a series of early disputes in the City of London and at White City. This latter dispute – and merger with the Leeds-based Clerks Union in 1897, led to the appointment of the union’s first paid official, Herbert Elvin, and to a greater centralisation of the union that saw it grow from a membership of just 160 in May 1906 to 2,0860 by the end of 1910.

Apex poster 1909
Poster advertising an early meeting of the union.

The National Union of Clerks affiliated to both the TUC and the Labour Party in 1907, and began publication of its monthly journal, The Clerk, the same year. Although it began life in City firms and spread to all parts of the economy (with the excepiton of the railways and the Post Office), the NCO was to have most success in the engineering sector, and in 1921 it reached a national recognition agreement witht he Engineering and National Employers’ Federation – the first white-collar trade union to do so.

In 1920, the union added “and Administrative Workers” to its name, and influenced by GDH Cole’s guild socialism ideology adopted a guild system of organisation. This proved unsuccessful and was abandoned in 1932. In 1941, the then NUCAW merged with the Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries to become the Clerical and Administrative Workers Union with a membership of nearly 20,000.

During the post-war period, CAWU became a bastion of Labour’s moderate or right wing, adopting the so-called “Rule 13”, which debarred Communists from representing the union in any capacity – a bar which remained in place until 1974.

CAWU remained a small – albeit growing – trade union until the end of the 1960s when, in just two years, membership doubled and more officials had to be taken on to cope with an influx of 39,000 new members. CAWU’s growth spurt reflected similar growth among other white collar unions, most notably ASTMS under Clive Jenkins as office workers in the engineering sector signed up in their thousands.

Having changed its name to APEX in 1972, the union became involved in that decade with its highest profile industrial dispute – at Grunwick, a small North London film processing works which became the centre of mass picketing and a bitter political battle over the right to trade union recognition. The dispute was important for many reasons – not least because it was the first in which a largely Asian workforce had been centre-stage, but also because the picket-line scenes helped to shape the policies of the then new Conservative Party leader Margaret Thatcher.

In 1989, APEX merged with the GMB (formerly National Union of General and Municipal workers).

Sources and notes

The Clerks: A History of Apex, 1890-1989 , Arthur Marsh and Victoria Ryan (Malthouse Publishing, 1997).
Historical Directory of Trade Unions, vol 1 , Arthur Marsh and Victoria Ryan (Gower, 1980).

Further information
National Union of Clerks and Apex, Working Class Movement Library, Manchester (external link).
Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries, Working Class Movement Library, Manchester (external link).
Dame Anne Godwin: Trade Union Leader, Working Class Movement Library, Manchester (external link).

Apex 1909
Delegates to the 1909 annual conference of the National Union of Clerks.

APEX honours list compiled by Frank Leath (Midlands area organiser, 1959-82)

ARCHER, Peter QC MP; Labour MP for Rowley Regis and Tipton 1966-74 and Warley West, 1974; Solicitor General 1974-79; later Lord Peter Archer.
ASBURY, Sid. d.1982; North West area secretary.
ATTLEE, Clement MP (1883-1967); joined NUC 1908; Deputy Prime Minister 1942-45; Labour Prime Minister 1945-51; said to have been the only prime minister to have coined a limerick summarising his own career:
“Few thought he was even a starter;
There were many who thought themselves smarter.
But he ended PM,
CH and OM ,
An Earl and a Knight of the Garter”.
BAGNARI, Bernard d.1987; joined NUC 1927; London Area Organiser 1938; then Area Secretary; resigned 1946, his work hampered by London Communists in the union; later broadcaster in Italian for BBC; served on London County Council; Vice President CAWU 1960-65.
BARBER, Revis (1895-1965); Bradford City Council.
BARSTOW Percy G. MP (1883-1969); Labour MP for Pontefract 1941-50.
BEAMISH, Olive (1891-??); an early suffragette; joined AWCS 1920 and CAWU on amalgamation; London Trades Council; City Branch, Ilford Branch, London Print Branch; Ipswich Branch 1955.
BENTINCK, Henry (1863-1931); joined NUC 1922; later Lord Henry Cavendish Bentinck.
BINKS, Harold MBE; Northern Ireland Secretary; retired 1976.
BLENKINSOP, Arthur MP (1911-79); Labour MP for Newcastle on Tyne East 1945-59; South Shields 1964-79; parliamentary secretary at the Ministry of Health 1949-51.
BOOTHROYD, Betty MP; Labour member for West Bromwich 1973-74 and West Bromwich West 1974; former member CAWU Westmin­ster TUPS Branch; from 1992 Speaker of the House of Commons.
BOWEN, Teg; Alderman and Lord Mayor of Birmingham 1952-53.
BROWN, David, BEM; CAWU Executive Council Member Welsh Area.
BROWN, Marjorie CBE; Alderman and first woman Lord Mayor, Birming­ham , 1973-74.
CATTERMOLE, Jim; joined NUC 1931; secretary Birmingham Borough Labour Party 1945-47, Assistant Regional Organiser Labour Party, London 1947-51 and East Midlands 1951-72; founder member and Director “Labour Movement in Europe”.
CHAPMAN, Henry (1905-); General Secretary 1963-71.
CLACK, Brian (1945-16); APEX staff representative, Rolls Royce, Park­side, Coventry ; leader Coventry City Council.
CREABY, John MBE; CAWU/APEX Northern Area Secretary.
CURRIE, David (1905-85); Joined NUC 1935 with a group of Glas­gow hospital pharmacists; president CAWU 1961-1971 and General Trustee 1968-1985; President Scottish TUC 1956.
DAVIES, Ifor, MP; (1910-82); Labour MP for Gower 1959; par­liamentary under-secretary, Welsh Office 1966-69; Welsh Labour Group MPs 1973.
DAVIES, Jean; CAWU/APEX Chief Staff Representative, W.T. Avery, Smethwick ; past Mayoress Sandwell Borough Council.
DAVIS, Stanley Clinton, MP; Mayor of Hackney 1968; Labour Member for Hackney 1970-1983; 1985, Member Commission of the European Economic Communities; later Lord Stanley Clinton-Davis.
ELGER, Bill DL d.1946; President CAWU 1940-46; Glasgow Bailie JP; Deputy Lieutenant of the County.
ELVIN, Herbert H. (1874-1949); NUC General Secretary 1906-1940.
EVANS, Stanley MP (1898-1970); Labour MP for Wednesbury 1945-56 when he resigned over Suez; as parliamentary secretary Ministry of Food, criticised farmers 1950 as “featherbedded”.
FLETCHER, Ted MP (1911-83); AEU member, Birmingham ; CAWU Northern Area Secretary 1949-64; Labour MP for Darling­ton 1964-83.
GIBSON, Arthur Lummis d.1958; CAWU Midlands Area Secretary 1929­-58; Alderman and Lord Mayor of Birmingham 1955-56.
GILZEAN, Andrew OBE MP (1877-1957); Labour MP for Central Ed­inburgh 1945-51.
GODWIN, Anne, DBE (1897-1992); joined AWCS 1920; Assistant Gen­eral Secretary AWCS and CAWU 1941; General Secretary 1956-62; Chaired TUC 1961-62.
GOTTFURCHT, Hans; joined the Angstellte union in Germany in 1913 and was a full-time official in 1919; later took part in underground activities against the Nazis and fled to England in 1938; became ed­ucation officer and Assistant General Secretary of the ICFTU after the war.
GRANTHAM, Roy A. CBE; Midlands Organiser 1949-57; Midlands Area Secretary 1958-1970; General Secretary CAWU/APEX 1971-89; GMB National Apex Officer 1989.
GREENWOOD , Arthur MP (1880-1954); Minister of Health 1929-31; War Cabinet 1940-42; Paymaster General 1946-47.
HEALEY, Denis MBE MP; joined CAWU 1946; Labour member for Leeds South East 1952-55; Leeds East 1955-; Secretary of State for Defence 1964-70; Chancellor of the Exchequer 1974-79; Baron Healey.
HEATH, Dorothy: CAWU/APEX Secretary Darlaston Branch; Member TUC Regional Council and GMB Regional Council.
HENDERSON, Arthur MP (1863-1935); Labour Mp for Barnard Castle 1903-18; Widnes 1919-22; Newcastle 1923; Burnley 1924-31; Na­tional Council of the Labour Party; succeeded Ramsay MacDon­ald as Labour Party Secretary 1909; resigned when coalition formed 1931.
HOLMES, Walter; Administrator Rolls Royce; Chairman Derby Branch and Midland Area Council; National Trustee 1943-1958; transferred to Rolls Royce, Crewe as a manager.
HOWELL, Denis MP; joined CAWU 1942; Labour member for All Saints 1955 and Small Heath 1961; Minister for Sport 1964-1969; President of APEX 1972-83; later Lord Howell of Aston Manor.
HOWELL, Denis MP; joined CAWU 1942; Labour member for All Saints 1955 and Small Heath 1961; Minister for Sport 1964-1969; President of APEX 1972-83; later Lord Howell of Aston Manor.
HOY, James MP; Labour member for Leith 1945-1950; Baron Hoy of Leith 1970.
HUGHES, Fred OBE; NUC President 1908.
HYND, J.B. MP (1902-71); Labour MP for Sheffield Attercliffe 1944­-70; Minister for Germany and Austria 1945-47.
JOESBURY, Tom; CAWU/APEX Senior Staff Representative, Fort Dun­lop ; West Midlands County Council.
LAPISH, Duncan OBE; CAWU/APEX National Official.
LATHAM, WilIiam [Bill] (1883-1974); joined NUC 1921; National Trustee 1929-1961.
LATHAM, Charles (1888-1970); Leader of the London County Council 1940-47; later Lord Latham of Hendon.
LEATH, Frank, OBE; joined CAWU 1946; branch secretary Shrewsbury to 1956; National Executive Member Midland Area 1949-58; Area Organiser 1958-61; Midland Area Secretary 1961-82; Chairman Shrewsbury Magistrates; Chairman Shropshire Health Authority 1974-84.
LEVER, Harold MP (1914-95); joined CAWU 1970; Labour MP for Manchester Exchange 1945-50 and Cheetham, 1950-74; Finan­cial Secretary to the Treasury 1967-69; Paymaster General 1969­-70; Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 1969-74; Lord Lever of Manchester 1979.
LIKIER, John; an Austrian second world war refugee; Chairman Luton No.1 Branch; London Area Council Representative on the Union’s Executive Council.
LIPSON, Joan; joined CAWU 1942; Vice President 197? .
LITVINOV, Maxim (1876-1951); refugee from Tsarist Russia; lived for 10 years in Britain; joined NUC St Pancras Branch 1910; representative of the Soviet Republic to Britain 1917; Soviet Foreign Minister 1930­-39.
McCARTHY, Bill; Ruskin College and Nuffield College ; Research Director Dovovan Commission; later Lord McCarthy of Headington.
McCOY,Joan: CAWU/APEX Secretary, No.1 Coventry Branch; Badlake Ward, Coventry City Council; Member Regional Council GMB.
MACKAY, R.W.G. MP (1902-60); Labour MP Hull North-west 1945-50, Reading North 1950-51.
MEADOWS,Jim OBE; Alderman and Lord Mayor of Birmingham 1967­-68; CAWU National Executive Council Member.
MILLAN, Bruce MP; Labour MP for Glasgow Craigton 1959-83 and Govan 1983; Secretary of State for Scotland 1976-79; later EEC Commissioner for Regional Policy.
MORRIS, Alf MP; joined CAWU 1944; Labour MP for Manchester Wythenshawe since 1968, notable for his work for the disabled.
MORRIS, John, MP; Labour member for Aberavon, since 1964; Secretary of State for Wales , 1974-79; latterly shadow Attorney General.
MORRISON, Herbert MP (1888-1965);joined NUC 1919; Secretary Lon­don Labour Party 1915-40; Leader of the London County Council 1934-40; Home Secretary 1940-1945; Lord President of the Council 1945; later Lord Morrison of Lambeth.
MULLEY, Fred, MP (1918-1995) ); oined NUC 1936; Labour MP for Sheffield Park, 1950-1983; Minister of Transport; Secretary of State for Defence, 1976-79; Chairman, Labour Party; 1984 Lord Mulley of Manor Park.
OWEN, Dr David, MP; Labour MP for Plymouth Sutton 1966-74 and De­vonport 1974; Minister of State DHSS; Foreign Secretary 1977-79; co-founded SDP 1981.
PARROTT, Fred; Midland Area CAWU/APEX Electricity Branch mem­ber; Chairman Warwickshire County Council; Mayor Stratford on Avon .
PECK, Ron; full-time Chief Staff Representative Plessey Telecommunica­tions, Beeston and Branch Secretary.
PERRIS, Sir David MBE; Birmingham Trades Council; Secretary TUC Regional Council; Chairman Birmingham (later West Midlands ) Regional Hospital Board.
POOLE, Len; CAWU/APEX Chairman Cannock NCB Computer HQ Branch; Staffordshire County Councillor.
IRICE, Sir Frank; Alderman and Lord Mayor of Birmingham 1967-68.
RHYDDERCH, David, CBE (1900-81); joined CAWU 1926; National General Treasurer 1949-1979; Vice Chairman Birmingham Re­gional Hospital Board; in his memory APEX covenanted a sum of money to build an Ironworks Office in the Victorian style at the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Blists Hill Site.
RICHARDSON, Horace d.1979; CAWU London and Home Counties Area Organiser 1947-1954.
RICHMOND , Agnes, MBE; secretary in the office of the Scottish TUC; CAWU Executive Council member, Scottish Area.
SAUNDERS, Graham MBE; APEX Welsh Area Secretary.
SCOULLER, R.E (Bob); Scottish Area Council 1915-1919; full-time Sec.and President, 1946-51. SEVER, E.J. MP; Labour MP for Ladywood 1977-83.
SHAW, George Bernard (1856-1950); a clerk in his youth and a NUC mem­ber, wrote for The Clerk when it was first launched and subsequently an introduction to Trade Unionism, for Clerks .
SILVERMAN, Julius MP; Labour Member for Erdington 1945-55 and 1974-83; Aston 1955-74.
SKYTE, Heinz; North East Executive Council member CAWU; a leading member of the Jewish Community in Leeds .
SMART, Walter (WOD) d.1974; Birmingham born, gained a national rep­utation as a junior boxing champion; CAWU Midland Area Organ­iser 1940-1945; North East Area Secretary based on Leeds, 1945-73.
SMITH, Ken d.1995; joined CAWU 1949; APEX President 1984-89 and APEX Amalgamation 1990-95.
SNELL, Henry MP (1865-1944); joined NUC 1922; 1931 Lord Henry Snell.
SOLLEY, Leslie J. MP (1905-1968); Labour MP for Thurrock 1945-50; expelled and readmitted 1950.
STANSFIELD, Val.; Treasurer and Secretary Leicester General Branch; Editor CPSA magazine Red Tape .
STEPHEN, Jessie, MBE (1893-1979); joined NUC 1938; Organiser South Wales and West of England Area 1944-49.
STEPHEN, Rita, MBE; London Area Organiser CAWU 1960-65; National Official CAWU/APEX 1965-1989 and National Officer GMB to 1991; Monopolies and Mergers Commission 1973-83; editor The Clerk 1965-71.
STEWART, Theresa; joined CAWU 1970; Leader Birmingham City . Council.
STOTT, Clem; joined NUC 1911; Manchester District Organiser 1917; CAWU North West Area Secretary; resigned and joined Gas Board 1949.
STRAUSS, George MP (1901-93); Labour MP for North Lambeth 1929-31 and 1934-50; Vauxhall Division of Lambeth 1950-79; Min­ister of Supply 1947-51; Father of the House of Commons 1975­
TAYLOR, ANN MP; Labour MP for Dewsbury 1987 – ; Council and Leader of the House of Commons 1997.
THOMAS, TUDOR; Assistant General Secretary 1956; retired 1983; see name index.
TRAVIS,jean; joined CAWU 1968; Vice President; Central Executive Council of GMB.
TURTON, Victor; Alderman and Lord Mayor of Birmingham 1971-72; later Chairman West Midlands County Council.
TYLECOTE, Mabel Ph.D; member Manchester City Council from 1940; Governor Manchester University.
UNDERHILL, Reg (1914-93); joined NUC 1931; West Midlands Re­gional Organiser Labour Party 1948; National Agent 1972-79; Lord Underhill of Leyton 1979; Deputy Leader of the Opposition, House of Lords 1982.
WALKER, Helene MBE (1904-94); joined CAWU 1931; President 1951­-60.
WARBEY, W.N. MP (1903-80); Labour MP for Luton 1945-50; Broxtowe 1953-55; Ashfield 1955-66.
WALLACE, Bruce d.1983; joined NUC 1928; Scottish Area Secretary 1945-73.
WIGG, George MP; (1900-83); Labour MP for Dudley 1945-67; PPS to Ministry of Fuel and Power; Secretary of State for War and De­fence; Paymaster General; confidant of Harold Wilson; 1967 Baron Wigg of the Borough of Dudley.
WILKINSON, Clive; former Leader Birmingham City Council; Chairman Sandwell Health Authority; member Commission for Rural Eng­land.
WILLIAMS, Sir Herbert MP; MP for South Croydon ; West Ham Bor­ough Council.
WILLIAMS, Shirley MP; Labour MP of Hitchin 1964-74 and Hert­ford and Stevenage 1974-79; Secretary of State for Education and Science, 1976-79; co-founded SDP, 1981; later Lady Williams of Crosby.
WIMBLE, E.W.; joined NUC Croydon 1910; later Workers Educational Association and Workers Travel Association.
WINNICK, David MP; Labour member for Walsall North from 1979; branch secretary CAWU 1956-62; Vice Chairman APEX.
WOODS, Fred; General Secretary 1941-55.
WRIGHT, Sheila MP; Labour Member for Handsworth 1979-83.
YATES, Victor MP (1900-69); clerk, Cadbury’s Bournville and Chairman Bournville Branch; Labour MP for Ladywood 1945.