Saturday, February 09, 2008

The Workers Union


The Workers Union was established by Tom Mann in 1898 as a new union to cater for semi-skilled workers in the Engineering Industry.

Despite a ear
ly haphazard recruitment pattern, The Workers Union ability to organise in the new "mass production" factories would eventually secure its position as one of largest union in the county.
However, in 1910 the Workers Union had just four branches in London with a combined membership of just one hundred, while nationally the union had 5,000 members, mainly in South Wales, Glasgow, Sheffield, Derby and Birmingham.
In 1913 The Workers Union General Secretary Charles Duncan, appointed its first London full time organiser, George Dallas, a Scottish Socialist (later MP)
It was with the massive expansion in armaments factories necessitated by the start of World war One that allowed the Workers Union to organise.

Within one year of the outbreak of the War over seventy percent of workers in industry were employed in Government war
contracts, by 1918 it had risen to ninety percent.
The Hayes factories in West Middlesex, switched production from consumer goods to munitions, and new huge munitions factories built with towering chimneys.
By December 1913 the local Advertiser newspaper was recording that "It is safe to say that the majority of Botwell workers now belong to one union or another".
From 1915 onwards compulsory arbitration under the Munitions Acts forced all mayor employers to recognise the unions and this helped propel the Workers Union into the largest union in the country.
Workers Union growth in North London was spectacular, most notably at Enfield. But the union also established several strong West London branches, by far the largest factory being Waring & Gillow at White City, who produced tents and gas masks. It was at Waring & Gillow that a four day strike by mainly women workers secured Workers Unuion recognition.

Young male and female workers along with Belgium refugees flooded into the Hayes factories to replace the male workers called up into the army. We know that it was thanks to the efforts of Douglas Page a beltman who arrived in Hayes in 1914 that the Workers Union was established in Hayes.

We also know that Belgium workers at the Army Lorry Company had joined the Workers Union at the beginning of the War and that they were (despite the threat of conscription into the Belgium army) involved in a brief strike in the factory in 1915. The Workers Union even established a special section for Belgium workers under the leadership of Jan Chapelle (Belgium Metal workers union), which had at it's height 5,000 members.
But it was undoubtedly it was due to the energetic endeavours of the local Workers Union full time organiser Frank Rosenberg (he also seems to be involved at Slough) that three branches of the Workers Union were established in Hayes by 1918. The strongest branch of the Workers Union in Hayes being headed by Douglas Page another by Mr E Roberson Hayes No 3 branch.
Frank Rosenberg in August 1918 stated
"To anybody who did not belong
to a union, he would say that they were failing in their duty towards the men who were fighting in France and Flanders. When they came back they would ask those that had stayed at home what they had done to better the present conditions of things" They heard of strikes, said Frank Rosenberg and people blamed the unions for them. But there was not one union in the country that agitated for a strike for a mere business point of view it is not to the advantage of unions to have strikes, because during that period the members have to be paid strike pay. Strikes were caused by bad wages and the conditions under which workers labour"

Another regular visitor to Hayes was Miss Florence Saward, one of the very first full time women union officials (Saward was the daughter of a farm Labourer from Braintree Essex). Saward became a Workers Union organiser in Essex and Suffolk around 1913 and was involved in the 12 day Braintree Courtaulds Silk Mill girls strike in November 1913 and the Witham Silk Glove girls strike which started on 27th February 1919

The Workers Union would go on to amalgamate into the Transport & General Workers Union (TGWU) in 1929, which in itself would become such a powerful voice for the working people of Hayes.

D.M.A. Page - Workers Union, Hayes
Douglas Page was born in Hammersmith in 1884 and was by 1901 employed as an oil works labourer, he moved to Hayes in 1914 and became a beltman in the local factories. By 1918 he was branch Secretary of Hayes branch of the Workers Union. Page began employment at His Master Voice (HMV later EMI) in 1924. As the founder of the Workers Union branch in Hayes he was honoured in 1957 by his union, becoming a life member of the Transport & General Workers Union (TGWU) signed, personally by Frank Cousins.
He was active in Hayes Lab
our party and was first elected to Hayes & Harlington Council as a Labour Councillor in 1924, representing both East and South Wards. He was Chairman of the council 1937-1938 and on Coronation day he opened the new station bridge in Hayes.

In 1940 he was appointed Justice of the Peace.

His wife Mrs Page was a founder member of the Hayes Maternity & Welfare Committee and represented
the Labour Party on Middlesex County Council Education Committee for 26 years

(Photo Right above Watford branch of the Workers Union, banner and Miss Florence Saward centre)

By Michael Walker 2008

The Isle of Man branch of the Workers Union (later Transport & General Workers Union TGWU) was established by Alfred "Alf" Teare a Printer in March 1917 by the end of 1918 it had over one thousand members covering all industries.

The Workers' Union in 1918 had the following officers on the Isle of Man;Douglas Secretary- Alfred James Teare, Crosby Terrace; R
ushen Secretary- R. Leece, The Friary ; Peel Secretary- F. Kinrade, 32 Glenfaba-Road ; Ramsey Secretary- Frank Cain, 2 Marsden Terrace; Laxey Secretary-T. E. Lewin, Dimon Villa.
Th Workers Union on the Isle of Man effectively called a general strike in July 1918, a strike that was largely successful. By 1920 The Workers Union on the island had 3-4,000 members.
Alfred James Teare born at Barrow-in-Furness in 1879, of Manx parentage. Isle of Man Organising Secretary of the Workers' Union since March, 1917 ; Chairman of the Bread Strike Committee of 1918 ; appointed the first w orking-man justice of the Peace, 1919 ; elected to the House of Keys for South Douglas as a Labour Member at the 1919 General Election and returned again, 1924. A Member of the Douglas and District Licensing Court ; of the Isle of Man Advertising Board and of the Workmen's Hospital Committee. Vice-Chairman of the Advisory Committee to the Government on the Demobilization of Soldiers and the Labour Exchange from 1918 until its close. General Secretary of the Manx Labour Party which, in its present form, he was mainly responsible for organising. Has taken a keen interest in local Musical events, and been an active member of Athletic Clubs ; also was a member of the 7th Batt. King's Liverpool Regiment (I.o.M. Volunteers) from 1899 to 1902. Address : 6, Crosby Terrace, Douglas

TGWU Channel Islands

In Jersey on the Channel Islands, the union was establsihed by the Dock, Wharf, Riverside and General Workers Union on 23rd September 1918 (however the Guernsey branch predated this). Ned Moignard was elected President and Jack Hardman as Secretary (until 1932). In 1919 Moignard split from the Dockers Union to form a branch of the Workers Union. However both unions merged nationally to establish the Transport & General Workers Union. By the end of 1921 the TGWU had 5,000 members on Jersey. Between 1932 and 1937 the branch had some rather poor Branch secretaries until the arrival from the mainland of a young Edward Hyman in January 1937
The TGWU was part of the small but honourable Jesey resistance movement against Nazi occupation in the Second World War lead by Communist Norman Le Brocq (Photo)and Les Huelin (Jersey Democratic Movement) printing an undeground trade union newsletter Worker's Review. While Norman Le Brocq was the best known TGWU member and activist on Jersey he was not allowed to hold office by his union because of his Communist Party membership.

Michael Walker 2008