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Bishopsgate Institute

General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU)


Reference code(s): GB 0372 GFTU

Held at: Bishopsgate Institute

Title: General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU)

Date(s): 1805-2011

Level of description: Collection

Extent: c100 boxes and oversized items

Name of creator(s): General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU)


Administrative/Biographical history:

The General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) is a national trade union centre in the United Kingdom. It has 35 affiliates with a membership of just over 214,000 and describes itself as the "federation for specialist unions". In the 1890s, the development of socialist organisations and socialist thinking also found expression in the British trade union movement. Many of the new unions formed during that period were committed to the socialist transformation of society and were critical of the conservatism of the craft unions. The debate revolved around concept of building "one-big-union" which would have the resources to embark on a militant course of action and even change society. This thinking gained strength after the 1897 Engineering Employers Federation lockout which resulted in a defeat for engineering workers. The view that it was necessary to develop a strong, centralised trade union organisation by forming a federation, which had been rejected only two years earlier, was now endorsed at the Trades Union Congress of September 1897. This resulted in the establishment of the General Federation of Trade Unions at a special Congress of the TUC in 1899, the principal objective of which was to set up a national organisation with a strike fund which could be drawn upon by affiliated trade unions. The GFTU participated in the foundation of the International Federation of Trade Unions at the Concertgebouw, Amsterdam in July 1919. The GFTU now concentrates on servicing the needs of specialist unions. It does this by providing courses, undertaking research for its affiliated Unions and administering a Pension Scheme for officials and staff of affiliated Unions. In keeping with its original objectives, the Federation pays dispute benefit in appropriate cases to affiliated Unions. The Governing Body is the Biennial General Council Meeting, attended by delegates from affiliated Unions, at which policy and rule changes are debated and an Executive Committee of 14 members elected to meet on a monthly basis between Biennial General Council Meetings.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of the General Federation of Trade Unions, (1805-2011). Includes: Union Files including National Association of Card, Loughborough Dyers and Scourers Association, Pressed Glassmakers’ Society and other skilled glassmakers unions, Hinckley and District Trimmers’ Union, Derby Trimmers, Dyers and Auxiliary Workers’ Association, Waterproof Garment Workers’ Trade Union, Amalgamated Society of Cricket Ball Makers, London Glass Workers’ Trade Society, Amalgamated Textile Warehousemen, Amalgamated Moulders and Kindred Industries Union, London Glass Workers’ Trade Society, National Flint Glass Makers’ Society, Hinckley and District Hosiery Warehousemen/Menders Association, London Mill Sawyers and Woodworking Machinists Trade Society, Card Setting Machine Tenters’ Society, Card Dressers’ Society, Northern Carpet Trades Union, National Union of Lock and Metal Workers, Arbroath Mill, Factory and Bleachfield Workers’ Union, Associated Metal Workers and Allied Trades, Process and General Workers’ Union, Amalgamated Machine, Engine and Iron Grinders’ and Glaziers’ Society.

Also the Amalgamated Moulders and Kindred Industries’ Trade Union, London Glass Bottle Workers’ Trade Society, Amalgamated Springworkers Union and Allied Trades, Print Block, Roller and Stamp Cutters’ Society, Machine, Engine and Iron Grinders’ and Glazers’ Society, Hinckley and District Hosiery Warehousemen’s Association, Leicester and Leicestershire Hosiery Trimmers and Auxiliary Association, South Durham and North Yorkshire Saltmakers’ Association/West of Scotland Sheet Metal Workers, Braziers and Gas Fitters/Derbyshire United Enginemen, Firemen and Motormen’s Association, Amalgamated Weavers’ Association, Pen and Pocket Blade Forgers’ and Smithers’ Protection Society, Chemical Workers’ Union, Midlands Glass Bevellers’ and Kindred Trades’ Society, Journeyman Felt Hatters and Allied Workers’ Union, Spindle and Flyer Makers Trade and Friendly Society, Rossendale Union of Boot, Shoe and Slipper Operatives, Scottish Union of Power-Loom Over-Lookers, Yorkshire Association of Power Loom Overlookers, Packing Case and General Woodworkers’ Society, National Union of Club Stewards, Power Loom Carpet Weavers’ and Textile Workers’ Association, Northern Carpet Trades’ Union, Amalgamated Society of Beamers, Twisters and Drawers, National Society of Brushmakers and General Workers, Midland Counties Federation of Hosiery Finishers, National Association of Licensed House Managers, Nottingham and District Dyers’ and Bleachers’ Association, Lancashire Box, Packing Case and General Woodworkers Society, Amalgamated Union of Asphalt Workers, Union of Jute, Flax and Kindred Textile Operatives, Leicester and Leicestershire Auxiliary Workers, General Union of Association of Loom Overlookers, National Union of Domestic Appliances and General Metal Workers, London Jewel Case Makers’ Trade Protection Society, National Society of Metal Mechanics, Associated Metalworkers’ Union, Rossendale Union of Boot, Shoe and Slipper Operatives, United Ladies’ Tailors Trade Union, Power Loom Carpet Weavers and Textile Workers’ Union, Amalgamated Association of Card, Blowing and Ring Room Operatives, Dundee and District, Calendar, Linoleum and Dye Workers’ Union, United Society of Engravers, Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton Spinners and Twiners, Cloth Pressers’ Society, Hosiery and Textile Dyers’ and Auxiliary Association.

Also the Cigarette Machine Operators’ Society, Manchester and District Caretakers’ Association, Amalgamated Society of Textile Workers and Kindred Trades, Amalgamated Society of Operative Lace Makers and Textile Workers, Amalgamated National Union of Quarry Workers and Sett Makers, National Union of Wallcoverings, Decorative and Allied Trades/Wallpaper Workers’ Union, Managers and Overlookers’ Society, National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers, Lancashire Amalgamated Tape Sizers’, Yorkshire Society of Textile Craftsmen, Wall Paper Workers’ Union, Scottish Union of Power Loom Tenters, Ceramic and Allied Trades Union, National Society of Pottery Workers, National Tile, Faience and Mosaic Fixers’ Society, Leicester Hosiery Scourers and Bleachers Trade and Benefit Society, National Silk Workers’ Association, Society of Shuttlemakers, Amalgamated Society of Spring Makers, Tool Makers and Grinders, National Union of Stove, Grate and General Metal Workers, Amalgamated Moulders’ Union, Leicester and Leicestershire Trimmers and Auxiliary Association, National Amalgamated Furnishing Trades’ Association, Retail, Book, Stationary, and Allied Trades Employees’ Association, National Union of Hosiery Workers, National Union of Funeral Service Operatives, National Union of Furniture Trade Operatives, Chain Makers’ and Strikers’ Association, Leeds and District Warpdressers’, Twisters’ and Kindred Trades Association, General Union of Lancashire and Yorkshire Warp Dressers’ Associations, London Jewish Bakers’ Union, Screw, Nut, Bolt and Rivet Trade Society, and the Yorkshire Association of Power Loom Overlookers, 1901-1996; Minutes of the Management Committee and Sub-Committee, 1899-1983; Minutes of the Sub-Committee, 1900-1910; Minutes of the Pension Scheme Trustees, 1961-1991; Minutes of the Wages and Insurance Sub-Committee, 1974; Minutes of the Education Trust, 1977-2011; Minutes of the Co-ordinating sub-committee, 1981-1982; Minutes of committees, 1975-1983; Minutes of the Joint Board of the Parliamentary Committee of the TUC, GFTU and Labour Party, 1907-1913; Minutes of the War Emergency National Workers Committee, 1914-1918; Cash book, 1901-1980; General accounts, 1908-1998; Accounts of dispute and benefits claims, 1902-1933; Papers regarding wages and pensions, 1920-1989; Register of benefits, 1915-1933; Service charges, 1998-2004; Subscriptions ledger, 1908-1910; Contributions register and receipts, 1899-1969; Day book, 1971-1994; Rent collection, 1930-1940; Papers, accounts, deeds, lease and policy documents for Central House , Prince’s Road and Woburn buildings, 1824-1981; Submission to the Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers Association, 1965; Report, strategy documents and statements, 1939-1990;; Paper regarding the rules of the Union, 1949-1956; Papers regarding students and education, 1983; Report on unemployment, 1977; Papers and correspondence regarding the relationships between the Trade Union Council and General Federation of Trade Unions, 1935-1942; Papers regarding the Multinational Project (Courtaulds Commission), 1974-1975; Papers regarding conferences and annual lectures, 1952-2000; Papers regarding the Royal Commission and the Cost of Living Enquiry, 1948-1965; Papers regarding the union representatives briefing, 1990-2002; Acts of Government, 1805-1898; Diaries of Leslie Hodgson, 1959-1974; Papers regarding ‘Federationist’ including subscriptions book and Scrapbook of articles, 1914-1919; Correspondence and ephemera concerning a meeting between P.Potts (General Secretary, GFTU) and the European Parliament Labour Group, 1982; Correspondence with George Bell, Leslie Hodgson, Alice Prochaska and various Union, 1935-1991; Correspondence regarding loans to the Government, the Federation and City Guild prizes, the Harbour Board, loans to Denton District Council, Flyde Water Board, loans to the Borough of Rochdale, Liverpool Mortgages, Co-operatives Wholesale Society bankers, Company Law Amendment Act, Sydney Whitehead case, industrial dust disease, dispute between Midland Counties Trade Federation and the National Union of Local and Metal Workers, Bedaux system, Federation News, Cartledge vs Jopling, Rookes vs Barnard,London weighting, employment for disabled soldiers, employment of women and young people in factories, unskilled labourers, regional development, Ministry of Health, Ministry of National Insurance, union membership and industrial disputes, 1916-1974; Press cuttings regarding Northern Carpets Trade Union, Power Loom Carpet Weavers' and Textile Workers Union, 1983-1987; Typescripts of 'A History of the GFTU’, and 'A Study of the prospects for economic development in North East Lancashire', 1959.


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:


Conditions governing access:

Apply to archivist

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopying and digital photography (without flash) is permitted for research purposes on completion of the Library's Copyright Declaration form and with respect to current UK copyright law.

Finding aids:

Copy of handlist available in Library Reading Room.


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Donated by the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU) in 2012


DESCRIPTION NOTES Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: April-November 2013

Trade unions | Labour relations

Personal names

Corporate names
General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU)