Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions

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Full name Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions
Founded 1890
Members 5 unions
Key people Hugh Scullion (General Secretary)
Office location Walworth Road, London, England
Country United Kingdom

The Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions (CSEU) is a trade union confederation in the United Kingdom.


The confederation was founded in December 1890 as the Federation of Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades by small craft unions, on the initiative of Robert Knight of the United Society of Boilermakers and Iron and Steel Shipbuilders, primarily in response to the formation of a National Federation of Shipbuilders and Engineers by employers.[1] By 1895, sixteen unions were affiliated, with a total membership of 150,000.[2] However, the prominent Amalgamated Society of Engineers (ASE) refused to join.[3] The ASE finally joined in 1905 but, failing to persuade the other members to unite with it in a single industrial union, withdrew again in 1914.[4] Meanwhile, unions representing unskilled workers were initially excluded; the National Amalgamated Union of Labour was finally admitted in 1908, and the National Union of Gasworkers and General Labourers in 1910, and only after they had given assurances that they would permit the craft unions to retain a leading role in the organisation. Because it would not sign a similar agreement, the Workers' Union was never admitted.[5] In its early years, the Federation focussed on resolving demarcation disputes,[2] but it soon concentrated on making national agreements for the engineering and shipbuilding industries, allowing the largest union in each trade to take the lead in negotiations.[6]

The confederation adopted its current form and name in 1936.[6] From 1941, the CSEU co-operated with the National Union of Foundry Workers and the Amalgamated Engineering Union in the National Engineering Joint Trades Movement, convincing these two unions to affiliate in 1944 and 1946 respectively. The confederation then represented the vast majority of unionised worked in the relevant industries.[7]

By 1977, the CSEU had 23 affiliates and 2.4 million members, with most workers organised in the relevant sections of the Transport and General Workers Union, General and Municipal Workers Union and Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbing Union.[6] In 1989, membership was still 22 affiliates and 2 million members but, by 2001, this had fallen to 1.2 million members,[7] and a process of union mergers has greatly reduced the number of affiliated unions and the prominence of the organisation. All current affiliates are also members of the Trades Union Congress.

Current members[edit]

General Secretaries[edit]

1890: William Mosses
1917: Frank Smith
1937: Ernest Gilbert
1942: Gavin Martin
1957: George Barratt
1970: Jack Service
1978: Alex Ferry
1994: Alan Robson
2004: John Wall
2008: Dave Gibbs
2009: Hugh Scullion


From Until President Union
1897 c.1900 Robert Knight Boilermakers
1900 1912 James Millar Jack Iron Moulders
1912 1922 John Hill Boilermakers
1923 1925 Allan Findlay Patternmakers
1925 1933 Will Sherwood General Workers
1933 1939 William Westwood Shipwrights
1939 1941 John W. Stephenson Plumbers
1942 1943 Harry N. Harrison General Workers
1943 1945 Mark Hodgson Boilermakers
1945 1946 John W. Stephenson Plumbers
1947 1948 Mark Hodgson Boilermakers
1949 1957 Harry Brotherton Sheet Metal Workers
1958 1959 Wilfred Blackwell Beard Patternmakers
1959 1960 Frank Foulkes Electrical
1960 1961 Jim Matthews General Workers
1961 1963 George Doughty Draughtsmen
1963 1964 John McFarlane Boyd Engineering
1964 1965 Ted Hill Boilermakers
1965 1966 Alf Roberts Vehicle Builders
1966 1967 William Tallon Engineering
1967-8: ?
1968-9: Leonard Green
1969-70: ?
1970-1: Jack Youngs (Woodworkers)
1971-2: Danny McGarvey (Boilermakers)
1972-3: Jack Higham (Domestic Appliances)
1973-4: Fred McGuffie (EETPU)
1974-5: Roy Grantham (APEX)
1975-6: Les Buck (Sheet Metal Workers)
1976-7: Len Edmondson (AUEW)
1977-8: Marie Patterson (TGWU)
1979-80: Ken Baker (NUGMW)
1981-2: Gerry Eastwood (Patternmakers)
1982-3: Pat Turner (GMB)
1986-7: Tom Douglas (GMBATU)
1988: Ken Gill (MSF)
1990: Jack Whyman
1991-3: John Weakley (AEU)
1995-7: Barbara Switzer (MSF)
1999-01: Roger Lyons (MSF)
2000s: Diana Holland (Unite)


  1. ^ Journal, New Zealand Department of Labour (1893), p.72
  2. ^ a b Herbert Tracey, Seventy years of trade unionism, 1868-1938, p.123
  3. ^ Arthur Ivor Marsh and Victoria Ryan, Historical Directory of Trade Unions, p.16
  4. ^ Edmund and Ruth Frow, Engineering struggles, p.32
  5. ^ John P. Lynch, An unlikely success story: the Belfast shipbuilding industry, 1880-1935, p.37
  6. ^ a b c Arthur Ivor Marsh, Trade union handbook, p.84
  7. ^ a b J. C. Doherty, Historical dictionary of organized labor, pp.72-73

8. Angela Tuckett "The Blacksmiths' History. What Smithy Workers gave Trade Unionism" 1974 p250

External links[edit]