London Trades Council

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Poster issued by the London Trades Council, advertising a demonstration held on 2 June 1873.

The London Trades Council was an early labour organisation, uniting London's trade unionists. Its modern successor organisation is the Greater London Association of Trades (Union) Councils


Leading figures in the London trade union movement convened occasional meetings of the "Metropolitan Trades Delegates" from 1848, meeting at the Old Bell Inn by the Old Bailey; the London builders' strike of 1859 required ongoing co-ordination, and it was determined to organise a trades council.[1]

The formation of the London Trades Council was organised at George Potter's Building Trades Conference and led by George Odger's Operative Bricklayers' Society; the unions agreed to demand a maximum working day of nine hours from their employers. The employers refused, resulting in strike action and a lockout. Eventually the unions conceded, but the solidarity built prompted the formation of a citywide body able to co-ordinate future action.

The London Trades Council was founded in May 1860, and it may well have been the fourth such organisation in the country, after the Sheffield Trades Council and Glasgow Trades Council (both founded in 1858) and the Edinburgh Trades Council (founded in 1859).[1]

As the national Trades Union Congress (TUC) was not founded until 1868 (largely as a response by Trades Councils in Northern England to the perceived dominance of the London Trades Council), the London body initially provided a focus for many national campaigns, and its early leaders became known as the "Junta", they campaigned for the right of working men to vote, for legislation to improve working conditions, and for a Conciliation and Arbitration Act. They also supported the Glasgow Trades Council's campaign against the Master and Servant Act. However, their support for the United Kingdom Alliance of Organised Trades, founded just before the Sheffield Outrages, did not bear fruit, and the Council were not officially represented at the TUC until its second conference.[2]

The Council co-operated closely with the International Workingmen's Association (sometimes referred to as the First International), but voted against affiliating to the body.[3]

With the growth of the TUC, the London Trades Council lost its national leadership role, but remained the most important trades council in the country. Over time, it became increasingly radical, until in 1953 it was re-organised by the TUC (who were seeking to purge Communist Party influence in the Trades Councils nationally) and re-founded as the London Federation of Trades Councils, which became the Greater London Association of Trades Councils (GLATC), covering the whole of the Greater London area (which had been greatly expanded in 1965), in 1974.[4]. In 1985 the GLATC published a booklet on its 125-year history - this publication is now out of print but copies still exist in various libraries and collections.

List of Secretaries of the London Trades Council[edit]

1860: Tom Jones
1861: George Howell
1862: George Odger
1872: George Shipton
1896: James MacDonald
1913: Fred Knee
1914: John Stokes
1917: Duncan Carmichael
1926: Alfred M. Wall
1938: Robert Willis
1945: Julius Jacobs

Source: Julius Jacobs, London Trades Council, 1860-1950, p. 155

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Henry Pelling, (1992) A History of British Trade Unionism

External links[edit]