By W. Hamish Fraser
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Extra info for A History of British Trade Unionism, 1700-1998
They were particularly hostile to the use of the ‘quittance paper’, a character and wages note from an employer which was required when a worker moved jobs. 31 Other groups were responding to the changing conditions and trying to devise effective structures. The Friendly Society of Ironmoulders moved in 1846 to a more centralised structure with the final authority on strike action vested in the executive committee and a full-time secretary was appointed in 1853. The Friendly Boiler-Makers’ Society, which had been formed in 1834 and had been extending its membership in the 1840s, became the United Friendly Boiler-Makers’ Society and tried to impose some measure of central control over its branches.
Three years later, some of the Yorkshire miners succeeded in creating a South Yorkshire Miners’ Association, still only countybased, but linking many pits in an expanding coalfield. The Northumberland and Durham Miners’ Association was revitalised in the 1860s when some employers tried to go back to yearly contracts. To the Webbs the ASE was the ‘New Model’ for modern unionism. 2 Indeed, the Webbs themselves recognised that a great deal of what they highlighted had already existed for some time in the pre-amalgamation trade societies.
With yearly contracts, miners were particularly vulnerable, and the new Association hired a legal adviser, W. P. Roberts, at a salary of £700 a year to fight such cases. Generally, there was a desire to avoid precipitate strikes although a conference held in Glasgow in 1844 tried unsuccessfully to co-ordinate a national strike of miners. Northumberland and Durham miners did come out in a four months’ strike. The owners, led by Lord Londonderry, were determined to break the unions, however, and imported strike-breakers from Cornwall, Wales and Ireland.
A History of British Trade Unionism, 1700-1998 by W. Hamish Fraser