Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Ealing Bakers Union Established 1898

A demonstration of bakers and members of other trades "to protest against the conditions used by several of the Ealing master bakers to prevent their men joining the bakers union" was held on Saturday evening (29th May 1898) on Ealing Common.

There had previously been a parade of the neighbourhood with  band and banners.

A month previously (April 1898) a branch of the Amalgamated Union of Operative Bakers and Confectioners was established in Ealing and as the operatives were working sixteen and seventeen hours a day and receiving very small wages.

if the men wanted to win they must show a bold front So long as they were outside the union the masters knew they could work them as long as they liked and pay them as little as they liked, and they did it. it was not surprising therefore that masters viewed with alarm the formation of the branch of the union in Ealing. He knew perfectly well that there were men working there from seventeen...

The remedy was in there own hands but if they kept out of the union because they were afraid of being discharged, then he considered their case hopeless

the public they might feel were in sympathy with them and as long as that was so they had nothing to fear.

if all the men were discharged let them start a co-operative bakers society as had been done elsewhere. if they did that the public would buy off them and the real sufferers would be the masters (cheers).

It was anticipated that every man in the district would enrol himself in its ranks, but a member had been deterred by a threat of instant dismissal should they take such a step. Mr C. Perry branch secretary of the new branch presided at Saturday's meeting.

Perry stated they were men working there from seventeen to eighteen hours a day for a wage not much more than a pound a week.

Mr John Jenkins General Secretary of the bakers union

George Summers past chairman of the district board pointed out that that the union was not merely a fighting one, but was a society which assisted its members in times of poverty and sickness and ensured them descent burial

Mr Croxton, Hill and Lee

Later that evening a meeting of the Ealing branch of the Operative Bakers union was held at the North Star public house, Ealing and which more members were enrolled and membership cards issued

Ealing branch of the Amalgamated Union of Operative Bakers and Confectioners  June 1898

Uxbridge Advertiser 3rd June 1898

1861 - Amalgamated Union of Operative Bakers of England was formed.

1914 - changed its name to Amalgamated Union of Operative Bakers, Confectioners and Allied Workers of Great Britain and Ireland.

1925 - changed its name to the Amalgamated Union of Operative Bakers, Confectioners and Allied Workers.

1964 - name shortened to Bakers Union and later expanded to Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union. 

The bakers union commenced in the small house of Mr Thomas Hollingworth in Manchester in 1849 (a house destroyed in the blitz). Mr Hollingworths house was a meeting place for operative bakers during a period when it was a risky matter to join and meet as trade unionists.

In 1854 the union had enough members to appoint a secretary Mr Thomas Hodson but little progress was made until the formation of the first Amalgamated Union of Operative Bakers of England in 1861, this consisted of local branches/societies in London, Liverpool, Manchester, Warrington, Cheltenham, Bristol, Newcastle, Wigan and Hanley.

In 1864 Mr Thomas H Hodson was elected part time secretary and remained in office until 1883 on a salary of £26 per annum. Mr Hudson was a native of staffordshire, coming from the town of Leek later moving to Manchester in 1849.

in 1871 the union ran a campaign to demand a 10 hour day, and a sixty hour week.
The key branches of the union remained in London, Chester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester, The Executive coming almost exclusively from Salford, Hulme and Manchester.

Mr John Jenkins "The General" was elected Bakers Union General Secretary in 1883. a position he held until 1914. Jenkins was born in Golborne a small village between Wigan and warrington. Like many children of the time he left school at an early age and began work a "baker, sugar-boiler and soda biscuit maker" in a relatives bakery in Bolton. He tramped many miles selling copies of a pamphlet called the "National Reformer". Jenkins joined the Bolton Bakers union branch in 1867 and was a delegate to the Chester national conference in 1870, by 1877 he had been elected President of the union and General secretary in 1883 with a membership of about 3,000.

In 1885 the produced the first issue of its journal "The Journeyman Bakers' Magazine and Chronicle" under the editorship of Mr Watts Austin which supported the union and in 1888 became the full property of the  Amalgamated Operative Bakers Union under the editorship of John Jenkins.

1888 Halifax branch of Amalgamated Union of Operative Bakers established at a meeting held cellar hole in the old Central Hall in Union Street with Mr G. Langstreth of Bradford as first branch secretary.

In 1889 a strike place amongst London bakers and under the leadership of John Jenkins the union recruited over 4,000 new members. A great meeting was held in Hyde Park at which a crowd of over 10,000 was reported and with John Burns as the principle speaker. The union's other key organiser was Mr Sturgeon a free card member of the union for many years.

The result of the strike was debatable matter but at the least did show the need for drastic changes and proved the spirit of the men to fight for changes.

In 1892 the headquarters of the union returned to London (Hammersmith)

The first fully delegate conference was held in Birmingham in 1910 Mr A.F. Bentley (Manchester) President.

Cambridge branch of the bakers union established in 1902

The General Secretary Jenkins reported in 1909 that the average life expectancy of a baker had risen due to the union taking on safety issues from just 40 to 43 compared to 37 for a plumber.

The agitation in Birmingham in 1910 was still growing for a 26s 0d minimum wage and a big demonstration was staged with active assistance of the Trades Council (especially its secretary E.J. Berry. they held a public court of enquiry and issued a long report into pay and conditions in the trade. One of the leading figures in the City was Bishop Gore who took a leading part on behalf of the workers. Scribbans, who attended the meeting was the biggest employer in Birmingham. The branch ended the campaign with 300 members .

1912 saw an upsurge in British trade unionism and also amongst bakers with the establishment of many new branches. The new Rugby Bakers Union platform of August 1913 launched at the Engine Inn, Bridge Street included 54hr week exclusive of meal times, minimum wage Foreman 34s0d, charge hands 33s0d, single hand 32s 0d per week, second hands 30s 0d, machine dough makers 32s, jobbers 7d per hour

In 1913 John Jenkins decided the London District as the cockpit of the baking trade, meanwhile with the help of others unions a branch was established in Great Yarmouth. Ipswich co-op workers and management reported as "averse" to the union. 

Bristol branch of the Amalgamated Union of Operative Bakers & confectioners set out a platform on 18th November 1913 for 54 hr week for day workers 48hrs for night workers , Foreman's pay 34s a week single hands 34s second hands 32s: factory bakers Foreman 42s a week charge hands 35s Dough Makers 34s Table Hands 32s.

Females were accepted into membership from 1915 and an early activists was Miss E. G. Edmondson who spoke up for equal pay "Equal pay for Equal work" In the same year unskilled workers were also allowed to join  as a result of a resolution from Birmingham District speaking at the 1914 Conference Mr Fletcher (Northern District) stated "The time for a mere craft union had gone by, and they had to recognise that the fight was a class fight, and it was incumbent upon them taking their stand alongside the unskilled labourer or workman, realising that their interests were his interests and vice versa"

By December 1918 the union had 2,000 women in membership (total 20,000)  paying subscriptions of 3d to 5d compared to men's 1s to 1s3d (the difference may be due to benefits such as sick pay) It is also reported in women in trade unions by Barbara Drake that the union also had a women's organiser in 1918 ? and while mosts branches were "mixed" male and females the union had some all female branches. With regards to equal pay women bakers were receiving on average two thirds of male wage.

In 1915 Mr William Banfield former District secretary in Birmingham became General Secretary, born in Burton on Trent circa 1875, saw much poverty in his youth apprenticed to bakers in Birmingham aged 18  and soon became branch secretary on the death of District Secretary Mr C. Gibbs became secretary of Birmingham which in 1909 included 7 branches and 250 members and a wage of 22s0d unlimited hours and  by 1915 was one of the strongest union areas in the country. they had 20 branches and over 1,000 members with a minimum wage 33s0d for a 54hr week  this district being successful in obtaining the support of the clergy in their efforts to better the sweated conditions then prevailing, the outcome was an agreement with the employers. Banfield was later elected after a number of attempts as Labour Mp for Wednesbury in 1932 and 1937.

A big meeting of the Bakers union in Barnstaple, Devon addressed by the Acting General secretary W. Dymond and General Secretary Mr William Banfield was held in June 1915. Mr Banfield General secretary stated The Barnstaple branch had been established in 1913 because of the excessive hours worked by bakers in the area 12-15 hours and wages were "very, very low" as a result the union had sent Mr Montano the General Organiser with the definitie instructions to stay in Barnstaple for any time that might be necessary, and under no circumstances would he leave until a platform of hours and wages was definitely established. Mr Montano would make Barnstaple a centre for the entire district"They were familiar with the song "Glorious Devon2 and theirs indeed was a glorious county, but he thought it would be agreed that it was not a glorious Devon so far as the operative baker was concerned... When Mr Montano came to Barnstaple it would be no good running away from him, and it would be of no use for employers to say that they would not meet him. They would have to. ".

During the First world War many stalwarts of the union continued to fight for workers rights and against exploitation , excessive hours and poor safety. The union recalls these as "Men who will be remembered as long as there is a baker in our land".

Mr J. T Clements Midland District Secretary
Sir Herbert Hiles Jp South Wales District
PMr P. Williams Staffordshire District Secretary
George Haynes Jp Birmingham District Secretary
A. E Halliday Home Counties District Secreary (later gen sec)
A. Rawcliffe Preston District Secretary
E. S hall Nottinghamshire & East Mids District Secretary
M. Pringle Northumerland & Durham District secretary
S. Andrews Bristol & Western District Secretary
W.R. Morris Warrington District secretary
F. W. Petzing London District Secretary

1919 strike by bakers in London for 44hr week 4,136 but 920 locked out. 450 members many with over 30 years service lost their jobs at V.V. Bread Company, by 1920 38 were stll recieving victimisation pay. It is estimate London had 7,000 bakers at the time.

In September 1940 Mr J. J Thomasson was appointed General Secretary (another Lancastrian).

During World war two the union's 23,000 members members worked tirelessly to ensure no one went short of bread, the bakers  unions headquarters at 8 Guildford Street, London were lucky to escape undamaged during the Blitz  London Bakers union member A. Darbyshire was awarded the British Empire Medal

In 1941 Miss Marion E Thomas was elected to the position of National women's organiser and Miss Thomas of Blackpool accepted a post for 12 months covering Southern England and also a Miss Doherty.

The first Bakers union women executive member was Miss E. G. Edmondson of Manchester.
Ernie Haynes became national president in 1945 succeeding H. J. Keen. The son of a London bus driver, after a spell in a stockbrokers office aged 14 gained insight into financial manipulation  he joined the merchant navy but ended up as a night baker in Birmingham successfully organised Bordesley branch taking the membership to over 300, active in Birmingham trades council employed at barrows stores bakery and highly esteemed by management, previously worked at Nuffield's canteens and five years at Birmingham co-operative bakery.

Membership in December 1948 stood at 31,259

1951 the number of workers in the industry was 62,615 of which  the union had 27,000 in membership

General Secretaries
Thomas H Hobson 1864-1883
John Jenkins 1883-1914
William Banfield 1915-1939
J.J. Thomasson 1940-1952
A.E. Halliday 1952-1968
Stan Gretton 1968-1975
Sam Maddox 1975-1979
Joe Marion 1979-2010
Ronnie Draper 2010-

A.F. Bentley 1910-1914
J.H. Brown 1914-1925
T. Ferris 1926-1927
H. Keen 1927-1945
Ernie Haynes 1945-1969
C.T. Child 1969-