Thursday, 7 June 2012

Birth of the Trade Unions

In 1797 the Government passed an Act of Unlawful Oaths, which outlawed all secret gatherings  inciting disorder among workers, and at the beginning of the 19th century The Combination Acts was passed, making it illegal for the workforce to unite and demand higher wages, but these Combination Acts were repealed in 1824.

By 1831 agitation among agricultural workers wanting a fair wage was beginning to take hold. This came to a climax with the transportation of the Tolpuddle Martyrs. These six agricultural workers from Dorset had formed a branch of the Friendly Society of Agricultural Workers in 1833.  The Government fearing further agitation and demonstrations by the agricultural workers, similar to that seen in 1831, arrested these men who were then transported in 1834 for seven years .
Due to the enormous public outcry at the injustice meted out on these men , their sentences was quashed and the men released in1836.

During the middle of the 19th century skilled workers formed the *New Model* Trade Unions, where each worker paid a subscription to be a member, and in return were given sickness and unemployment benefits.
The TUC was founded in1868 which preferred to negotiate with employers on behalf of the workforce instead of automatically calling for it’s members to go on strike.

In 1871 Trade Unions were legalised. and in 1875 the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act allowed peaceful picketing.

By the late 19th century unskilled workers had begun to form powerful Trade Unions, and 1889 saw the formation of the Gas Workers and General Labourers Union,  a Seamans Union and the General Railway Workers Union
It was in August of 1889 that the successful Great London Dock Strike was held, which lasted for five weeks…the demand by the Dockers was for a minimum wage of 6 pence per hour.
…..The Trade Unions had now secured a firm foothold with their support of the working man against any seen injustice by employers.

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