Amalgamated Society of Engineers (c1853-1920) – Amalgamated Engineering Union (1920+)

Amalgamated Society of Engineers (c1853-1920) – Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU)  Perth branch – founded c1853 -, records 1860-1965. Includes: minutes, 1860-1957; Member‘s Registration Cash Books, 1853-1947; Proposition and Entrance Books, 1863-1893, 1903-1942; Cash and Receipt Books, 1952-1960, 1964-65; Check Book, 1949-1955. 0.34 metres. MS42. The ASE formed in 1851. 1920 ASE mergers with other unions to form AEU. Growth continues up to and during WWII. Women allowed to join from 1943.

1. 1860-69.

2. 1869-1878: First meeting 11 January 1870. Signed William Douglas. In 1870, William Douglas is President; Frank Holdsworth is Vice President. Other positions include Sick Stewards/Visitors, Secretary, Referee, Check Book Keeper, Auditors, Bank Trustees, Provisional Auditor, Committee members, Book Keeper and a Door Keeper. Links with Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dumbarton, Arbroath, Renfrew, Newcastle, Govan and Leith branches – even English branches Warwickshire, Halifax, Manchester, Nottingham, London East, Birkenhead etc. Annual elections of posts. Numbers at meeting – 16, 28, 23, 32. Items mentioned – Glasgow Conference (December 1870); research into average wages of unionised and non-unionised men in Perth; Wallace Factory; Nine Hours Movement (Newcastle upon Tyne; Edinburgh and Leith Nine Hours League; Dundee Nine Hours League; and a discussion about setting up a Nine Hour League in Perth) a lot of correspondence with the central union; looking for a club room; Benevolent Fund; 51 hour a week iron workers’ demand; Strike March 1872 at C.D. Young‘s Works; Caledonian Railway Workshops; Rule Book changes. “February 15 1872 – “A letter was read from Wm. Peattie of the nine hours league Dundee thanking the Perth workmen for their exertions in aiding the Dundee men out on strike here of pecuniary aid advising the, to hold by their demand of 51 hours.”  20 June 1872 – “no money in the funds to assist the Perth shoemakers”. At the end of 1872, William Peddie is Vice President and John Marshall is President. In 1873, use the Stormont Arms room as a clubhouse. Seem to be a steady though smallish growth in membership over the period. 1873 President John Davidson, Vice President James Stewart. 4 November 1873 representatives to Dundee trades demonstration. Very regular meetings – fortnightly. 26 February 1874 “that we take steps to have a trades council formed in Perth”. Mention of correspondence with Agricultural Labourers’ Union. The Dundee branch delegate to a delegates meeting was appointed in May 1874 to act for the Perth branch as well. 1874 President Alexander Campbell and Vice President David Barlass. The branch retained a doctor for its members. 17 December  1874 President James Hill and Vice President John McPherson. A lot of branch stuff relates to providing sick benefits to members for short periods. 1875 talk of setting up a strike fund. June 1875 Thomas Calderwood President and Angus Duff Vice President. March 1877 John Marshall President and Henry Ogilvie Vice President. 28 June 1877 “each branch to form a committee … to raise funds for the purpose of assisting those men resisting the reintroduction of the ten hours system”. August 1877 trade still in a depressed state. December 1877 William Geekie President and William Small Vice President. All through the period levies to support workers elsewhere. 22 May 1878 apply to Glasgow Branch for assistance with money for a strike, also sent delegate to Glasgow. Strike issue was over “an encroachment on the hours of labour also a reduction in wages”. Detail those affected: 32 men of our own society, 6 of Smiths, 8 Boiler Makers 3 Joiners. Total number on strike 350. Central Council sent £100 but requested that in future Perth contact the central committee in Glasgow. Also stipulated that money “can only be given to those of our own trade”. At the next meeting, 28 May 1878 resolved to give £80 (of the £100) to the strike committee and keep the rest in reserve. Next meeting 30 May discussion on how £50 had been spent and plans for the remaining money. It was agreed that the £50 had been spent in the interests of the engineering trade – put to the vote and carried. Resolved to coordinate work of Strike Committee and local Committee. 27 June 1878 meeting strike appears over as the meeting agrees to divide the balance of the money £25..15..10 up amongst the members of the branch who were on strike. Vote carried 34 for and none against. Meeting of District Committee 7 June  1878: “a telegram, which came from the Chairman of the Executive council now in Glasgow. The purpose of the telegram being that we take no action as to settling our dispute until we hear further. The Committee replied that we had decided to resume work at 71/2 per cent reduction and fulltime.” Chairman Executive Council is George Clarke. Local Committee asked for Chairman to come to Perth to explain his reasoning for interfering. This took place on 8 June 1878 – chairman of the strike committee said that they had reached the best result possible given the economic situation. John Marshall followed by saying that the men had accepted the best terms of seven and a half percent reduction on a 51 hour week. The Chairman of the Executive Council then gave a long speech but finally agreed that the resolution as not bad with the rider that he thought a 5% reduction a possible outcome.

3. 1878-1886: Missing.

4. 1886-1900: 25 March 1886 now meeting at the Waverley Inn St John Street and the president is now Peter Brown. “Reports were read which showed that trade was still in a depressed state. The funds having fallen below what is required by rule.” 1887 talking about small number of members. Frequent discussions on and votes for the Contingent Fund. 9 February 1888 – “considering the question of suspensions at New Year holidays as affecting our members at the Railway Shops”. Issue of working short time and receiving donation for the holiday period as well as normal time. 19 March 1888 – delegation from the Dundee branches looking for support for Brother Lindsay about the union General Council. Thirteen votes to zero for supporting Lindsay passed. Eventually Lindsay polled 244 votes for the General Council against Brother Fergusson who got 196. 23 July 1888 mention of a Legal Defence Fund. 29 October 1888 – discussion on why many workers eligible to join the engineering union have not done so. Mentioned that unionised men get 28/ and non-unionised 24/. Hours worked: “51, 54 and 56” per week.  Later meeting (minutes undated) – members in the district 34; 1 apprentice to 4 journeyman; apprenticeship is five years; overtime is time and a quarter for first three hours then time and a half; working holidays gives normal pay rates but working the Sabbath is double time. 21 January 1889 – issue of some members using the name of the society for political purpose and in a handbill. Still regular discussions on sick benefit and out of work to members. Mention of members at St John’s Foundry, Perth. Also regular mention of national membership figures e.g. 20 January 1890 – 60,310 members. Correspondence with other branches appears e.g. Arbroath 23 March 1891. Solidarity with other workers e.g. 28 December 1891 “a levy for the German Printers strike”. Mentions of information requests and circulars from the Board of Trade. 19 February 1894 73,682 members. Same time in minutes: “The Perth branch of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers protests against the action of the House of Lords in their attempt to destroy the Employers Liability Bill by inserting amendments which the organised workmen of this country declare they do not want and will not have and urge upon Her Majesty’s Government to restore the Bill to its original shape and insist upon its being passed in the condition in which it left the House of Commons.” – “owing to the bill being withdrawn the resolution was never sent”. 21 June 1897: “a letter was read from Brother Johnston asking our members to support him as a delegate for the Trades Union Congress”. Mention of a lockout/strike 30 August 1897 no details. 28 September 1897: “no appearance of a settlement as yet in regard to the dispute now pending”. Later 3 January 1898 “no appearance as yet of a settlement in regard to the Lockout”. Later 31 January 1898 “the great struggle has just finished”. In the meeting of 27 March 1899 mention is made of the “Locked Out Plasterers” and paying a supportive levy. Later mention of the Danish Engineering Lockout but this may not be the same issue. Trades Council mentioned 11 October 1897 – “a letter was read to the Branch from James McNab 21 Unity Place, Victoria Street asking this branch to send two Delegates to a meeting to be held in the Hospital Buildings, Hospital Street on Friday night. First the object of the meeting is to try and form a Trades Council for the City. It was moved and carried that we send two Delegates” – Peter Brown and Thomas Calderwood. The Operative Masons Hall was in the Hospital Buildings. By 23 May 1898 meetings now held in the County Inn 85 Watergate. Pensions – discussion and positive resolution on 30 January 1899 in regard to Old Age Pensions/State Pensions for those over 65. Membership mentioned 21 May 1900 is 85,560 and a decrease in the South African membership due to the war.

5. 1900-1910: Lots of general business – contributions, delegates to meetings, membership numbers, sick pay, superannuation benefit, correspondence from other branches across Britain, condition of trade, membership in and out of the branch, etc.  20 October 1902 overwhelming vote within the union to allow the national secretary to visit America. German metalworkers strike 2 November 1903 mentioned. Trades Council mentioned and delegates found for meetings e.g. 20 March 1905 “agree to send one or two delegates to represent our society at the trades council held in Dreadnought Hall, Hospital Buildings”. From 3 May 1905 branch meets at the City Café, Methven Street. Minutes now start to have reports by the delegates to the trades council about said trades council. Starting to look at pay levels across the district. 26 June 1905 resolve to write to machine shops that are paying under the standard wage rates. Following month, agree to set up petition to present to those underpaying employers; now working with and through the trades council. 24 July 1905 the union’s Organising Secretary came to Perth for a meeting on the wage question – poorly attended. A second meeting set up 10 August 1905 – to look at wage question – better attendance and he was warmly received. 4 September 1905 mention of continuation of the wage dispute with Messrs Coats Brothers, Dunkeld Road and Messrs Gossie and Son, Methven Street (and the dismissal of a member in connection with the wage dispute). Firms refusing to budge on pay. Branch agreed that their member was being victimised for his role in the union and their lobbying on the wage issue. Labour Representative Committee gets a mention in the meeting held 11 December 1905: “Ballot Papers were issued to the members to vote for a Second Ballot for the election of Delegates to the Annual Meeting of the Labour Representative Committee.” Now talking about trade and labour councils as opposed to the trades council and regular reports from that body. Membership breaks 100,000 (100,075) by 16 April 1905. Trades Union Congress: “the Second Ballot for the election of delegates to trades union congress” – 5 July 1906. Labour Party: “Ballot papers for the election of delegates to Annual Meeting of Labour Party, 1907” – 1 October 1906. Mention of giving a grant in support of the Dundee Bleachers – 2 September 1907. Trades Council problem with delegates not attending and difficulty in finding replacements – 9th December 1907. 22 June 1908 disaffiliate from trades council – not explained why. 1908 Wm. McCombe president but then change due to reporting auditor errors and so W. D. Calderwood takes over. By the middle of 1909, McCombe has officially resigned. June 1909 James Stewart is president. Meeting at Club house City Café in Methven Street. Lots of repeated discussion on sickness benefits and society support. 30 August 1909 difficulties in getting members to fill committee spaces. 6 December 1909 “The votes was taken for the Second Ballot for Delegates to the Labour party. “

6. 1910-1916: Thomas Calderwood is president. Issue of approaching a company with regard to obtaining recognition for District Committee Rules. Annual discussion of the parliamentary levy. 7 November 1910 – discussion about payment to members chosen as delegates to the trade and labour council. Eventually agreed that they could be paid but it must be done by levy. The district committee seems to be the Glasgow District Committee. Looks like only about ten voting members at meetings. As City Café closed the branch moved to the I.L.P. rooms in May of 1911. 11 September 1911 mentioned that the next meeting would discuss the proposed federation/amalgamation for federation. 12 February 1912 highest ever union membership at 122,200. Issue raised of investing £5000 in shares for a Labour paper – vote was 15,148 for and 11,462 against.  Meeting in Atholl Street. 25 March 1912 several members writing to the branch to say that they had been laid off due to the Coal Strike. 9 April 1912 voting for the General Council of Federation of Trades Unions. 21 October 1912 announced that union’s membership had increased by more than 2000 last month. 4 November 1912 letter – “a circular from the I.L. party (crossed out in pencil) asking if we would become affiliated to the National Labour party (crossed out in pencil)”; in the margin, Labour Representation Committee has been written in pencil. Monday 18 1912 mention of a worker at Luncarty bleach works. As per normal remittances of contributions, donations, re-election of branch officers, income and expenditure, insurance books, correspondence, vacant book. 24 March 1913 Issue of Provisional Council at odds with Executive Committee and about the National Health Insurance Committee. 21 April 1913 description of the present unfortunate position of the society. Branch secretaries now have increased workload because of the insurance act. 22 September 1913 “ballot papers for the votes on terms of agreement and for the partial alteration of Rules were issued and voted on. Results 12 in favour of ending Terms of Agreement none against. 11 in favour of ending Memorandum re Premium Bonus System none against. 10 for Partial Alteration of Rules Two against”. December 1 1913 printed circular form London ASE Reform Committee “wishing a branch resolution to Amalgamation with the boilermakers society. … Branch resolved to leave the matter alone.” John Pullar now president. Issue of £5000 investment in the Daily Citizen comes up again 20 April 1914 6 for and 4 against. The new clubhouse is at 17 Atholl Street. 1 June 1914 delegate reporting back from Trades Council meeting. 24 August 1914 “A ballot vote was taken for or against a special delegate meeting for the purpose of dealing with the Machinist and Apprentice question”. 25 January 1915 Motion passed for calling on a general rise of a penny per hour. 6 April 1915 “Two letters read from Brother Brodie (?) promising to visit Perth at an early date to interview employees on wages question.” 17 May 1915 now meeting at 4 Rose Terrace. “A good deal of discussion arose out of the question of the wages paid to engineers in Perth and it was moved and seconded that the branch committee hold as meeting and have full powers to carry out any decision that they may come to as regards the organising of the men in the different shops.” 24 August 1915 Mention of three Perth branch members employed in Glasgow who had been on strike between the 18 February and the 4 May 1915. Mention of shop stewards for the first time. 6 September 1915 “The Secretary stated that the employers had entirely ignored the letters he had sent regarding the claim for a rise and also the new district rules submitted to them. The Secretary was instructed to call am meeting of the Branch Committee to deal further with these questions.” Next month they get replies to Branch Committee’s letter on minimum wage and District rules from Messrs St John’s Foundry Co. and John Stewart and Co. Still mainly routine administrative stuff. James Stewart still president. 12 June 1916 now meeting at 6 North Methven Street. “Some trouble has been experienced lately in Mr Gorrie’s Engineering Works over munitions work … those engaged on the work had been told that every shell that was spoilt … would be deducted from their wages. The branch were of the opinion that such a high handed policy is uncalled for and express their disapproval of the same … it was agreed that … our Organising Secretary be asked to visit the Branch and have the whole question gone into.” After a visit from Local Labour Advisory branch to the firm of Gorrie’s seems the matter sorted although branch was worried about one of the members being victimised by the bosses at that factory. By 4 September 1916 those engineers who had had money deducted had got it back. 30 October 1916 stated that of the seven firms contacted over an increase in wages and overtime payments being time-and-a-half three had sent a formal acknowledgement of the letter. The matter was now to be referred to the district committee. Correspondence from Joint Committee of the Scottish Trade Union Congress and the Scottish Labour Party Council. Matter continues for some time. In 20 December they agree terms with Messrs Stewart and Co. The O.D.D. is involved (?). Branch called upon to pass information about members work to the War Office which they do.

7. 1917-1921: Regular fortnightly meeting. 22 January 1917 “ A letter was read from the Secretary of the City of Perth Cooperative Society Education Committee inviting members of the branch to attend a Lecture upon the subject of Housing to be delivered in the Cooperative Hall on 30th January at 7.30 pm”. 19 February 1917 “Concerning St John’s Foundry engineering apprenticeships, it was reported that a deputation of the boys had applied to the manager for an increase in wage to meet the present high cost of living, and were informed it would be necessary to ascertain what increases had been given to apprentices in other shops in the city.” Union knows that there is a wide variation in wage rates for apprentices. 19 February 1917 a circular arrives from the Leicester Amalgamation Committee saying that all metal, engineering and shipbuilding unions should form one big amalgamation in order to be in a position to cope with the situation after the war; Perth branch takes no action. Committee on Production looking at the wage issue in Perth. Seems like a national agreement is coming together on this issue in place of local awards. Though some doubts as to whether the district would benefit from the agreement on advances. 2 April 1917 “In connection with the recent award of wages made by the Chief Industrial Commissioner, operative from 1st April, a letter was read from the O.D.D. … to the effect that if arrangements would be made to accompany him he would visit the Perth employers … to ascertain whether they would concede the increase recommended.” However, the chap had failed to turn up. St John’s Foundry had agreed a 5/ a week advance for workers but yet to agree the recommended 2/6 for apprentices. Eventually the O.D.D. chap visit’s the Perth employers. By August still not resolved and branch communicating with the Minister of Labour. 3 September 1917 Messrs J. Moilon (?) and Sons agree to the main rise but make their own agreement with the apprentices at a lower rate. Letter from Perth Trades and Labour Council asking for financial support of those members on strike at Messrs Pullar and Sons. “There being a pretty full attendance the letter re the recommendation by the Trades Council to levy ourselves 1/- per week to help the funds of the employees of Messrs Pullars on strike there was a lengthy discussion on the subject and it was moved by Brother Menzies and seconded by Brother McLaren that the secretary write to the E.C. requesting a substantial donation out of the trade fund towards the funds. Brother Cameron then moved and Brother Duncan seconded that we levy ourselves 1/- per week towards the funds. This levy to be paid by all paying members it was agreed that the apprentices be exempt but they could contribute voluntary if they desired.” Following meeting 17 September 1917 the EC says that the other union must apply to them and not a branch. So information passed onto the Workers Strike Committee. “A statement of the voluntary collection made and the sum raised by levy on members for the above object were … £1-4-6 and the latter £3-4/- making a total of £4-8-6. This sum the Treasurer was instructed to pay over to Mr E Glan (?) treasurer of the Trades Council Strike Committee acting in cooperation with Pullars’ Union Workers and receive a receipt for the same.” 1 October 1917 still looking to get apprentices their full award under the national recommendations. Circulars from Scottish Labour Housing Association and the National Amalgamation Committee of the Metal, Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades. President resigning from 12 November 1917. Meetings held in Labour Rooms. 8th February 1918 – issue of manpower proposals – 2 hour discussion – “… the feeling of the meeting was to support the society in their resisting of the breaking of the 5th of May 1917 agreement but many of the members of the opinion that it would be against society and humanity to have a down tool policy.” Ballot papers issued. For 17 Against 39. The union often acts for members called up for active service. 3 April 1918 Issue of meetings held in Manchester on the 12 and 21 relating to a Strike Policy. Union EC disapproval. 5 April postal votes on manpower issue: For 38 Against 3. A. Litster the chairman involvement in Labour Party. 27th May issue of amalgamation with other kindred trades. Continuation of general business – sickness benefit, subs, income and expenditure etc. 18 August an appeal from the Dublin Shop Steward Committee to help with a strike and lockout in the Dublin Shell Factory. 30 September 1918 letter from study circle asking members to attend meetings on working class politics, economics and industrial history. 11 November 1918 issue of finding situations for discharged soldiers and sailors – otherwise no mention of the end of the war. 23 December 1918 Resolution proposed “That this Perth District Committee in view of the possibility of an early declaration of Peace and the further possibility of the reduction in the rate of wages by the annulment of War Wages, call upon the Executive Council to make immediate application for the embodiment of War Wages into the District flat rate, on a National basis.” Also issue of release of Pivotal men. And, proposal to get the School Board to introduce night classes “for the benefit of young engineers”. The apprentice (wage level) issue is a regular discussion point around this time. 14 April 1919 Brother W. D. Hills comes to Perth visit to Perth and to the Perth employers. Looking at putting in a wage demand – claim for the Glasgow rate of wages. 25 April 1919 agree to put this claim to a Board of Arbitration. This is put to the Secretary of Ministry of Labour. Messrs Ferguson and Batchelor write to the branch to say that they are prepared to pay the Glasgow rates. Vote on 44 hour week taken in the meeting For 23 Against None. 26 Amt 1919 Letter from Wexford Branch about their lockout. Court of Arbitration set up for Monday 30th June (Glasgow). 28 July 1919 special summons meeting to vote on BOA 3/= a week award. Little dissent and branch in agreement. Brechin branch strike – Perth has been donating to them. 15 September 1919 Letter from Dundee branch asking for delegate to come to a meeting on possible amalgamation. Up to 29 September 1919.

8. 1921-29.

9. 1930-42.

10. 1942-48.

11. 1948-52.

12. 1952-57.