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A guide to the archives of the Transport and General Workers' Union

In the opening years of the 1920s a series of conferences resulted in fourteen trade unions operating in the transport and general workers' sectors combining to form what was to be the largest trade union in British history. The Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU or T&G) officially came into existence on 1 January 1922. By the end of the decade it had absorbed nearly twenty further unions and it was to continue swallowing up smaller unions throughout its life, to a total of at least eighty. Two of its General Secretaries—Ernest Bevin and Frank Cousins—were to become Labour government ministers while still technically heading the union, and at the apogee of its size and power in the 1970s, the then General Secretary—Jack Jones—was often said to be the most powerful man in Britain. In 2007 it amalgamated with another major union, Amicus (itself the product of a series of amalgamations), to form Unite.

The Modern Records Centre holds the archives of the TGWU and also of many of its predecessors and the unions it absorbed over the years. Note that this does not include any records of individual members.

Please note that most unpublished material in these collections cannot be viewed without prior permission from Unite. Contact Mr Jim Mowatt, Director of Education, Unite, Transport House, 128 Theobald's Road, Holborn, London WC1X 8TD, or by e-mail care of Joan Francis (Joan.Francis@unitetheunion.org). Unpublished material less than 20 years old is closed without special permission.

Central Office Administration

General Executive Council

At the head of the union was the General Executive Council (GEC), consisting of elected representatives from all the regions and trade groups, which usually met four times a year.

Records of the GEC include:

There are also the union's published Annual Reports, 1922-1994, 2003-2005.

Routine administrative matters were handled by the Finance and Emergency Committee, renamed the Finance and General Purposes Committee in 1932, which usually met eight times a year. Records of the F&EC/F&GPC include:

Conferences

The union held Biennial Delegate Conferences from 1923. Records of these conferences, 1923-1991, 1999-2007, primarily consist of the printed Minutes and Proceedings.

Records relating to rules conferences include:

Finance

Geographical Organisation

The union began its existence with eleven Areas. A twelfth, the Mersey Area, was added later in 1922 and a thirteenth, the North Wales Area, was added in 1923. Each Area was run by an Area Committee and a full-time Area Secretary. Each also had its own Trade Group Committees. Most Areas were divided into Districts. In 1950, all Areas were redesignated Regions.

Area/Region No. 1 (London and Home Counties)

Covered most of the South East of England and East Anglia, including the following areas:

  • London
  • Bedfordshire
  • Berkshire (Windsor and Slough areas only)
  • East Buckinghamshire (including High Wycombe)
  • Cambridgeshire (except the area north of March)
  • Essex
  • Hertfordshire
  • Huntingdonshire
  • Kent
  • Norfolk (except the King’s Lynn and Hunstanton areas)
  • Northamptonshire (Wellingborough area only)
  • Suffolk
  • Surrey (except the area west of Godalming)
  • Sussex (except the area west of Petworth and Littlehampton)

Records of the regional committees and administration include:

Area/Region No. 2 (South Coast)

Later known as the South of England and Southern Regions, it included the following areas:

  • Berkshire (except the Windsor and Slough areas and Wantage and areas to the north)
  • East Dorset (east of Dorchester and Weymouth)
  • Hampshire
  • Isle of Wight
  • Oxfordshire (Henley-on-Thames area only)
  • West Surrey (west of Godalming only)
  • West Sussex (west of Petworth and Littlehampton only, including Chichester and Bognor Regis)
  • Wiltshire (except the Swindon area and the area west of Chippenham)
  • Channel Islands

Area/Region No. 3 (South Western)

Also known as the West of England Region, it covered the following areas:

  • Bristol
  • Cornwall
  • Devon
  • West Dorset (Dorchester and Weymouth and the area to the west)
  • West Gloucestershire (Gloucester, Stroud and Tetbury and the area to the west)
  • Somerset
  • West Wiltshire (west of Chippenham)

Records of the regional administration include:

Area/Region No. 4 (South Wales)

In 1969, it absorbed Region No. 13 and was renamed the Wales Region. Before then it covered the following counties:

  • Brecknockshire
  • Cardiganshire
  • Carmarthenshire
  • Glamorganshire
  • Monmouthshire
  • South Montgomeryshire (south of a line from Montgomery to Llanidloes)
  • Pembrokeshire
  • Radnorshire

Area/Region No. 5 (Midlands)

Covered the following areas:

  • North Berkshire (Wantage and areas to the north)
  • West Buckinghamshire (including Buckingham and Aylesbury)
  • South Derbyshire (south of Ashbourne, including Derby)
  • East Gloucestershire (east of Gloucester, Stroud and Tetbury only)
  • Herefordshire
  • Leicestershire (except the area east of Melton Mowbray)
  • Northamptonshire (except the Wellingborough and north eastern areas)
  • South Nottinghamshire (including Nottingham)
  • Oxfordshire (except the Henley-on-Thames area)
  • West Rutland (Oakham and areas to the west)
  • Shropshire (except Ellesmere and areas to the north)
  • South Staffordshire (including Stafford and Uttoxeter)
  • Warwickshire
  • North Wiltshire (Swindon and areas to the north only)
  • Worcestershire

Records of the regional committee include:

Area/Region No. 6 (Lancashire and Cheshire)

Later known as the North West Coast and North West Regions, it absorbed Region No. 12 in 1970. Before then it covered the following areas:

  • Cheshire (except the Wirral)
  • West Derbyshire (Buxton and areas to the west)
  • Lancashire (except Liverpool, Preston and Furness)
  • North Shropshire (Ellesmere and areas to the north)
  • North Staffordshire (including Stoke-on-Trent)
  • West Riding of Yorkshire West (west of Skipton, including Settle)
  • Isle of Man

Records of the regional committee and administration include:

Area/Region No. 7 (Scotland)

Covered the whole of Scotland.

The TGWU held separate Scottish Delegate Conferences. Records of the regional administration include:

Area/Region No. 8 (North of England)

Later known as the Northern Region, it covered the following areas:

  • Cumberland
  • Durham
  • Lancashire (Furness only)
  • Northumberland
  • Westmorland
  • North Riding of Yorkshire North (Teesside and the area north of Richmond)

Area/Region No. 9 (Yorkshire)

Later known as the North Midlands and Yorkshire Region, it covered the following areas:

  • York
  • East Riding of Yorkshire (north and west strips only, including Filey)
  • North Riding of Yorkshire (except Teesside and areas north of Richmond)
  • West Riding of Yorkshire (except the areas west of Skipton and east of Selby and Doncaster)

Area/Region No. 10 (East Anglia)

Later known as the East Coast, and Humber and East Coast, Regions, it covered the following areas:

  • North Cambridgeshire (north of March only, including Wisbech)
  • Lincolnshire
  • Norfolk (King’s Lynn and Hunstanton areas only)
  • North East Northamptonshire
  • East Nottinghamshire (including Newark)
  • Peterborough
  • East Rutland (east of Oakham)
  • East Riding of Yorkshire (except the north and west strips)
  • West Riding of Yorkshire East (east of Selby and Doncaster only, including Goole)

Area/Region No. 11 (Ireland)

Covered both Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State/Republic of Ireland. The TGWU was officially registered and known as the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers' Union (ATGWU) in Ireland to distinguish it from the entirely separate Irish Transport and General Workers' Union which had existed since 1909.

All-Ireland Delegate Conferences were held by the ATGWU. Records of the regional administration include:

Area/Region No. 12 (Mersey)

Formed later in 1922, when the Liverpool-based National Union of Dock, Riverside and General Workers joined the TGWU, it was later known as the Liverpool and District Region and merged with Region No. 6 in 1970. It covered the Liverpool and Preston areas and the Wirral, and may at times have also covered the Isle of Man.

Records of the regional committees include:

Area/Region No. 13 (North Wales)

Formed in 1923 when the North Wales Craftsmen and General Workers’ Union and the North Wales Quarrymen’s Union joined the TGWU, it merged with Region No. 4 in 1969. It covered the following areas, which were part of Area No. 6 until its formation:

  • Anglesey
  • Caernarvonshire
  • Denbighshire
  • Flintshire
  • Merionethshire
  • North Montgomeryshire (along a line from Montgomery to Llanidloes and areas north)
  • Chester and district
  • North West Shropshire (north west of Shrewsbury, including Ellesmere and Oswestry)

Gibraltar

Gibraltar formed a separate district outside the Area/Regional structure of the union.

Trade Groups and Sectors

The union was divided into trade groups, each handling a specific sector of membership. These changed over time. Each had a national committee with a full-time staff headed by a National Secretary, usually assisted by a National Officer. There were also trade group committees within each area/region. Some semi-autonomous sections also existed, which had a lower status than trade groups but similar functions.

The T&G Research Department collected documents and publications from a huge range of organisations, including many agreements made by the T&G itself. The department's archives contain files on every industry in which the union had membership.

Administrative, Clerical and Supervisory

The TGWU was one of several trade unions that covered white-collar staff and formed an Administrative, Clerical and Supervisory Group to cater for them. In 1939, due to laws about representation, the TGWU formed the National Association of Clerical and Supervisory Staffs (NACSS) as an affiliate. In 1969, this was renamed the Association of Clerical, Technical and Supervisory Staff (ACTSS). These co-existed with the national trade group and were run by the same committee and the same officers. Records of the group and the white-collar sector include:

Agriculture

The TGWU did not recruit agricultural workers until 1929, when the Workers' Union, which had a large membership among agricultural workers, merged. They were catered for by the separate Workers' Union Group, comprising the former membership of that union, until 1931, when it merged into the General Workers Group. There was a semi-autonomous Agricultural Workers' Section until 1946, when it became a separate Agricultural Workers' Group. However, agricultural membership was never particularly large among the TGWU and this group merged into the new Food, Drink and Tobacco Industries Group in 1970. In 1982 a new Agricultural and Allied Workers Group was formed on the merger of the National Union of Agriculture and Allied Workers, the main union for agricultural workers. Records of the section, group and sector include:

Building

The TGWU did not recruit building workers until 1929, when the Workers' Union, which had a large membership among the building industry, merged. They were catered for by the separate Workers' Union Group, comprising the former membership of that union, until 1931, when it merged into the General Workers Group. There was a semi-autonomous Building Workers' Section (later Building Trade Operatives' Section) until 1937, when it became a separate Building Trades Group. This was renamed the Building Trade and Constructional Workers' Group in 1962 and the Building, Construction and Civil Engineering Group in 1970. Records of the section, group and industry include:

Chemical

Workers in the chemical industry were catered for by the General Workers Group until 1931, when a new Metal, Engineering and Chemical Group was created. In 1943 the Chemical Workers' Section of this group became semi-autonomous and was renamed the Chemical and Allied Trades Section the following year. In 1954 it formed a separate Chemical and Allied Trades Group, which was expanded into the Chemical, Rubber Manufacturing and Oil Refining Industries Group in 1970. Records of the section, group and industry include:

Coal Shipping

The Coal Shipping Section was a semi-autonomous part of the Docks Group and covered the workers who loaded and unloaded coal in the docks, both for the coal trade and to fuel the ships themselves. Records of the section and industry include:

Docks

The Docks Group was one of the largest groups and sectors for most of the TGWU's existence. Amalgamations with other groups led to it being renamed the Docks and Waterways Group in 1970 and the Docks, Waterways, Fishing and Other Maritime Services Group in 1972. Records of the group and industry include:

Fishing

The Fishing Section was a semi-autonomous part of the Docks Group and later the Waterways Group until 1972, when it fully amalgamated into the new Docks, Waterways, Fishing and Other Maritime Services Group. Records of the section and industry include:

Flour Milling

The Flour Milling Section was a semi-autonomous part of the General Workers' Group until 1969, when it full amalgamated into the group. Records of the section and industry include:

Food and Drink

Workers in the food and drink industry were part of the General Workers Group until 1970, when the separate Food, Drink and Tobacco Industries Group was created.

General Workers

The most complex sector, the General Workers Group had a fluctuating membership as new groups were formed and had at various times a number of semi-autonomous sections. Records of the group and the industries which were always covered by it include:

Metal and Engineering

The TGWU generally catered for unskilled and semi-skilled workers in the metal and engineering industries, with skilled workers being covered by specialist unions. Initially these members were part of the Metal Section of the General Workers' Group. A separate Engineering Group was formed in 1930 and this was expanded the following year into the Metal, Engineering and Chemical Group. It became the Metal and Engineering Group in 1954 when the Chemical Group was formed and in 1970 was split into the Automotive Industries Group and the Power and Engineering Group. The former was renamed the Vehicle Building and Automotive Group in 1972 after the merger of the National Union of Vehicle Builders (and thereafter accepted skilled workers in the sector as well). Records of these groups and the industries they covered include:

Oil

The Oil Trades Section, then primarily catering for oil and petrol tanker drivers, was formed within the Road Transport Commercial Group in 1959. In 1970 it transferred to the new Chemical, Rubber Manufacturing and Oil Refining Industries Group, which also catered for other workers in the oil industry. Records of the section and the oil industry include:

Passenger Services

A major sector of the union, the Passenger Services Group covered workers in the bus, tram, trolleybus, coach and cab industries. Records of the group and sector include:

Power Workers

The Power Workers Group was formed in 1925 after the merger of the National Amalgamated Union of Enginemen, Firemen, Mechanics, Motormen and Electrical Workers, which continued to exist semi-autonomously as the National Union of Enginemen, Firemen, Mechanics and Electrical Workers until 1967. It catered for workers who operated and maintained static and mobile engines and other machinery within factories, plants and works. The group existed until 1970, when it amalgamated with the Metal and Engineering Group to form the Power and Engineering Group. Records of the group, union and sector include:

Public Services and Civil Air Transport

Manual workers employed by national and local government were members of the General Workers Group until 1943 and 1946 respectively, when the Government Workers Group and Municipal Workers Group were created for them. In 1970 these amalgamated to form the Public Services and Civil Air Transport Group, which also covered manual workers in the air transport industry. Records of the groups and sector include:

Road Transport Commercial

The Road Transport Commercial (RTC) Group covered lorry and van drivers and other manual workers in the road freight transport industry. Records of the group and industry include:

Rubber

Workers in the rubber industry were part of the General Workers Group until 1970, when the separate Chemical, Rubber Manufacturing and Oil Refining Industries Group was created.

Tobacco

Workers in the tobacco industry were part of the General Workers Group until 1970, when the separate Food, Drink and Tobacco Industries Group was created.

Waterways

The Waterways Group covered workers on the rivers, canals and other inland waterways, as well as maritime pilots and crews of harbour vessels. In 1970 it amalgamated with the Docks Group to form the Docks and Waterways Group. Records of the group and industry include: