Transport and General Workers' Union

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TGWU logo.png
Full name Transport and General Workers' Union
Founded 1922
Date dissolved 1 May 2007
Merged into Unite
Members 800,000 (2006)
Journal TGWU Record
Affiliation TUC, ICTU, STUC, ITF, IUF, Labour
Key people Tony Woodley, general secretary
Office location London, England
Country United Kingdom, Ireland
Transport and General Workers' Union central office
Transport and General Workers' Union Bristol office

The Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU or T&G) was one of the largest general trade unions in the United Kingdom and Ireland - where it was known as the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers' Union (ATGWU) to differentiate itself from the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union - with 900,000 members (and was once the largest trade union in the world). It was founded in 1922, and its first general secretary was Ernest Bevin.

In 2007, it merged with Amicus to form Unite the Union.


At the time of its creation in 1922, the TGWU was the largest and most ambitious amalgamation brought about within trade unionism. Its structure combined regional organisation, based on Districts and Areas, with committee organisation by occupation, based on six broad Trade Groups. Trade groups were not closely linked to trades, but were elected by activists. Officials of the union were grouped by region, and could be asked to serve each or any trade group.

Docks Group[edit]

The Docks Group was created in 1922 to represent former members of the following unions:

The group originally had a subsection for coal shipping.[1] Over time, membership of the group declined along with employment on the docks, and by 1980 the group had 51,153 members.[1]

General Workers Group[edit]

The General Workers Group was created in 1922 to cater for all workers in jobs which did not fall into another group. Initially, it had subsections for workers in metal and chemical trades. Once it was considered that a particular field had enough members to justify its own trade group, it was split out. This happened with the Metal and Engineering Group in 1930, and the Chemicals Group in 1954. These decisions were made at the Biennial Delegate Conference, and although there were many applications to form new trade groups, most were unsuccessful. By 1929, the group had grown to 100,000 members, and it then doubled in size when the Workers' Union merged into the TGWU.[1] Despite the splitting out of further groups in 1970, by 1980 the General Workers Group had grown further, to 269,845 members.[1]

Waterways Group[edit]

The Waterways Group was created in 1922 to represent former members of the Amalgamated Society of Watermen, Lightermen and Bargemen. In 1970, it was merged into the Docks Group.

Administrative, Clerical and Supervisory Group[edit]

The Administrative, Clerical and Supervisory Group was created in 1922 to represent former members of the following unions:

There was often ambiguity in the TGWU over the actual name of its white-collar section. From the 1960s it was generally known as ACTS (Administrative, Clerical, Technical and Supervisory) but also sometimes as the ACTSS (Association of Clerical, Technical and Supervisory Staff) and enamel union badges bearing both sets of initials were produced for members. It was noted for an enquiry by the Certification Office in 2006 into board members who had joined the union within six months of being elected to senior posts.

By 1980, the group had 149,801 members.[1]

Passenger Services and Road Transport (Commercial) Groups[edit]

The Road Transport group was created in 1922 to represent former members of the following unions:

Later in 1922, the group was split into Road Transport (Passenger) and Road Transport (Commercial) groups.[1] By 1980, the renamed Passenger Services group had 44,501 members, while the Commercial Services group had 226,290.

Later mergers[edit]

The Scottish Union of Dock Labourers and National Union of Dock, Riverside and General Workers in Great Britain and Ireland initially voted not to amalgamate, but joined before the end of 1922 nonetheless. The Greenock Sugar Porters' Union, Dundee Flax and Jute Stowers' Society, National Union of British Fishermen, and Belfast Breadservers' Association had also joined before the end of the year.

The Amalgamated Carters, Lurrymen and Motormen's Union merged with the Transport and General Workers' Union in 1922. Until its members were fully integrated in 1968, the union formed the North of England Commercial Section within the TGWU, retaining a great deal of autonomy and in many ways effectively functioning as a separate union, even being registered separately with the Registrar of Friendly Societies. It had previously had a similar arrangement with the United Vehicle Workers, another union that joined the merger forming the TGWU. Lurry was an old-fashioned spelling of lorry, and the spelling lorrymen is also seen in the union's documents.[citation needed]

Several specialised and other unions voted later to merge with the TGWU, including

  • The Workers' Union (est. 1898) in 1929, bringing into the TGWU 100,000 members.
  • Dundee Pilots in 1945.
  • Cardiff, Penarth and Barry Coal Trimmers' Union in 1967

The latest union to merge was the Community and Youth Workers' Union, whose members approved the merger on 13 September 2006, with the formal merger being approved by the Trades Union Certification Officer on 8 January 2007. For a full list, see the list of TGWU amalgamations.

The Transport and General Workers' Union spearheaded the campaign for the registration of Gangmasters in the UK, sponsoring an Act of Parliament which received the Royal Assent on 8 July 2004.[2]

Merger with Amicus[edit]

During 2005 discussions started between the TGWU, Amicus and the GMB about the possibility of merging the three unions into one organisation with potentially 2.5 million members covering almost every sector of the economy. On 14 June 2006 the GMB Conference voted not to continue with discussions although the other two unions are proceeding, with delegates approving the proposed 'Instrument of Amalgamation' at a special conference on 18 December 2006. The ballot of both unions' membership during February and early March 2007, also approved the merger. The result of the ballot was announced on 8 March 2007: 86.4 per cent of T&G members and 70.1 per cent of Amicus members voted to support the merger, from a turnout of 27%. The press release announced that the resulting union had the working title "New Union" and the name would be decided by a ballot of the membership.[3] However, on 2 April 2007, The Times reported that the name Unite had been chosen.[4] and that full merger of rule books and governing bodies may soon follow the existing merger of personnel and finance departments [5]


Regions - particularly Region One which covered London, the South East and Eastern England, also had a tradition of donating to other causes, as did branch committees, which controlled a substantial proportion of membership income.


General Secretaries[edit]

1922: Ernest Bevin
1945: Arthur Deakin (acting from 1940)
1955: Jock Tiffin
1956: Frank Cousins
1964: Harry Nicholas (acting)
1969: Jack Jones
1978: Moss Evans
1985: Ron Todd
1992: Bill Morris
2003: Tony Woodley

Deputy General Secretaries[edit]

1974: Harry Urwin
1980: Alec Kitson
1986: Bill Morris
1992: Jack Adams
1999: Margaret Prosser
2002: Tony Woodley
2003: Jack Dromey

Assistant General Secretaries[edit]

1924: John Cliff
1935: Arthur Deakin
1945: Harold Clay
1948: Jock Tiffin
1955: Frank Cousins
1956: Harry Nicholas
1968: Harry Urwin
1974: Vacant
1985: Eddie Haigh and Larry Smith
1988: Eddie Haigh
1991: Vacant?
1999: Barry Camfield and Jimmy Elsby


The list of TGWU amalgamations highlights the scale of the TGWU policy of mergers, amalgamations and transfers of engagements, which contributed to its membership growth and the spread of its membership base.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Eaton, Jack; Gill, Colin (1981). The Trade Union Directory. London: Pluto Press. pp. 54–68. ISBN 0861043502. 
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 March 2007. Retrieved 11 August 2006. 
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 March 2007. Retrieved 12 March 2007. 
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ [2]

External links[edit]