By W. Hamish Fraser
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Extra info for A History of British Trade Unionism, 1700-1998
31 Other groups were responding to the changing conditions and trying to devise effective structures. The Friendly Society of Ironmoulders moved in 1846 to a more centralised structure with the final authority on strike action vested in the executive committee and a full-time secretary was appointed in 1853. The Friendly Boiler-Makers’ Society, which had been formed in 1834 and had been extending its membership in the 1840s, became the United Friendly Boiler-Makers’ Society and tried to impose some measure of central control over its branches.
New recruits were being pulled in from the ranks of country blacksmiths and woodworkers; new machinery provided opportunities for employers to try to push down labour costs, by using less than time-served workers to operate the machines. The Society’s first concern was to ‘prevent a surplus labour in our trade’ (as the 1851 Rules declared) by maintaining strict control of the system of apprenticeship, over how many apprentices per skilled journeymen and over the length of training. e. the wage acceptable in the district for a fully skilled turner or fitter.
As George Howell explained, it was part and parcel of an effort by newspapers, some employers and some politicians in 1865, 1866 and 1867 to create an impression that violence and trade unionism were inextricably linked and that restrictive legislation was required. There were calls for unions to be ‘stamped out as a public nuisance’. There were demands for a public inquiry into trade unionism both from those who wished to see their activities curtailed and from the leaders of the larger unions who wanted to clear their organisations of the stigma of complicity in violence.