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General Strike, 1926

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 1924 General Strike
Held at: Trades Union Congress (TUC) Library Collections at London Metropolitan University
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Full title: General Strike, 1926
Date(s): 1926
Level of description: Collection (Fonds)
Extent: 14 boxes
Name of creator(s): TUC | Trades Union Congress


Administrative/Biographical history:

In 1925 the Coal Owners Association announced that they intended to reduce the miner's wages. The General Council of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) responded to this news by promising to support the miners in their dispute with their employers. The Conservative Government, decided to intervene, and supplied the necessary money to restore miners' wages to their previous level. The Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, stated that this subsidy to the miners' wages would only last nine months. In the meantime, the government set up a Royal Commission under the chairmanship of Sir Herbert Samuel, to look into the problems of the Mining Industry. The Samuel Commission published its report in March 1926. It recognised that the industry needed to be reorganised but rejected the suggestion of nationalisation. The report also recommended that the Government subsidy should be withdrawn and the miners' wages should be reduced.

The final offer to the miners offered a national settlement based on an increase of hours to 8 per day, and a wage cut of 13%. The Government declared a state of emergency on 1 May. When the TUC General Council met on 1 May the coal miners were already locked out of the pits. The TUC proposed a National Strike from midnight on 3 May, the only major union which voted against the proposal was the National Union of Seamen. The TUC continued to negotiate with the government. To their surprise Baldwin informed them that the negotiations were over and that there must be a withdrawal of the strike threat. The TUC expressed 'surprise and regret' at the Prime Minister's action and the strike went ahead.

The TUC proposed to call out workers in a systematic manner, starting with workers in transport, the docks and railways, heavy industries, building trades, power stations and printers. The response to the strike call was remarkable, about 1.5 million workers joined the million coal miners on strike. The TUC set up various sub-committees to direct the strike, there was considerable anxiety to retain central direction of the strike. In some places it was necessary to restrain groups of workers, who had not been called out. Throughout the country trades councils acted as focal points for co-ordination and leadership. The TUC published its own Strike Bulletin The British Worker, and there were also many local publications.

There were discussions between the TUC and Sir Herbert Samuel, who stressed that he was acting in a personal, unofficial capacity, from 7-10 May. Samuel offered the guarantee of re-organisation, and the TUC Negotiating Committee accepted this as a basis for further negotiations. On the evening of 10 May the miners' leaders rejected Samuel's proposals, and the following day the TUC General Council effectively gave the miners an ultimatum - accept the Samuel memorandum or carry on alone. The miners' Executive replied that they could not accept the memorandum. On 12 May the TUC told the Prime Minister that the strike was over. Ernest Bevin, General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union tried to press Baldwin for a 'just settlement', but got little satisfaction.

In some industries men were only taken back on a selective basis, this led to the temporary resumption of strike action by railwaymen. In the mining areas there was a definite sense of betrayal. The miners strike/lockout continued for several months, and there was a great deal of suffering. By October, while the will to continue still remained, the feeling of a battle lost provided the need for a return to work. The final decision was left to local ballots, and district leaders arranged the return to work with local employers. To the very end, the vote of the Durham miners was against the settlement. By late November, such miners as were required were back at work.


Scope and content/abstract:

Trades Union Congress correspondence and papers relating to the Miners' Dispute and the General Strike, 1926, comprising:
TUC reports of meeting with the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, Apr 1926, and other notes;
Letters from individuals, trade unions and labour organisations to the TUC, May 1926;
Circular letters and printed leaflets issued by the TUC, May 1926;
Local reports and bulletins sent to the TUC by Strike Committees, Trades Councils, and Trade Unions, arranged by region, Greater London, North West, Yorkshire and Humber, Northern, Wales, Scotland, South East, South West, East Anglia, West Midlands and East Midlands;
Correspondence and papers on production and distribution of the TUC's daily strike bulletin; The Daily Worker, May 1926;
TUC Intelligence Committee correspondence and papers, May 1926;
TUC summaries of wireless bulletins on the Miners' Dispute and the General Strike, May 1926;
TUC Progress of Strike Reports, 6-10 May 1926;
TUC General Council Bulletin, 4-14 May 1926;
TUC Publicity and Communications Committee correspondence and papers, 2-14 May 1926;
TUC special committee papers, particularly Powers and Orders Committee and Food and Essential Services Committee;
TUC Speakers' notes on the Miners Dispute and the General Strike;
Copies of TUC Despatch Rider codes;
Official and contemporary reports including copies of the TUC's daily strike bulletin, The British Worker and the Government's British Gazette, May 1926; Foreign press articles; international trades union reactions; Sunday Worker news bulletins, Non trade union circulars including the Manchester Evening News, Foyles News Bulletin, the London Tramway Workers, the Independent Labour Party, and the Food Education Society.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

By file as indicated in Scope and content.

Conditions governing access:

Open to bona fide researchers at the discretion of the TUC Librarian.

Conditions governing reproduction:

At the discretion of the TUC Librarian and subject to copyright conditions

Finding aids:

Partially listed

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers were transferred to the TUC Library Collections in the University of North London by the TUC in January 1998.

Allied Materials

Related material:

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Alan Kucia as part of the RSLP AIM25 Project.

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:
Mar 2002

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