Trade unions

In com­mon with the rest of the UK, for most of the last 200 years, work­ers in the print­ing and allied trades in Scot­land have been rep­re­sent­ed by a range of unions.

Com­pos­i­tors and press­men in let­ter­press print­ing were rep­re­sent­ed from the mid­dle of the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry by the Scot­tish Typo­graph­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion. Before that many areas had local Typo­graph­i­cal Soci­eties which oper­at­ed as ben­e­fit soci­eties. In 1975 it became part of the Soci­ety of Graph­i­cal and Allied Trades (SOGAT 75, lat­er SOGAT 82) which lat­er amal­ga­mat­ed with the Nation­al Graph­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion (NGA) to become the Graph­i­cal Paper and Media Union. In 2004 the GPMU became part of Ami­cus, and since 2007, work­ers in the print­ing and allied trades have been rep­re­sent­ed by Unite the Union’s Graph­i­cal Media and Paper Sec­tor.

The print­ing side of the lith­o­graph­ic trade was organ­ised from the 1880s by the Amal­ga­mat­ed Soci­ety of Lith­o­graph­ic Print­ers. The orig­i­na­tion side was rep­re­sent­ed by the Amal­ga­mat­ed Soci­ety of Lith­o­graph­ic Artists, Design­ers, Engravers and Process Work­ers (SLADE) from the 1880s. Both of these unions became part of the Nation­al Graph­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion in the 1960s, as did the Nation­al Soci­ety of Elec­trotypers and Stereo­typers (NSES), which organ­ised print­ers’ foundry work­ers such as elec­trotypers and stereo­typers.

A range of oth­er unions rep­re­sent­ed work­ers such as machine rulers, work­ers in the paper­mak­ing indus­try, book­binders, type­founders and var­i­ous ancil­liary work­ers such as ware­house­men. A list has been com­piled of the sur­viv­ing union archives for Scot­tish unions, and Scot­tish branch­es of UK-wide unions.

Many doc­u­ments, which might have been hand­writ­ten in oth­er trades, were print­ed as a mat­ter of course, for exam­ple a pay claim, or memo­r­i­al, put to the employ­ers, by com­pos­i­tors in Edin­burgh.

Over time the rules and agree­ments gov­ern­ing the wages and con­di­tions of the work­ers changed, and the rule books would be print­ed for the use of mem­bers, as well as doc­u­ments giv­ing the rates of pay:

Edin­burgh Typo­graph­i­cal Soci­ety

Scot­tish Typo­graph­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion

You can read an account of the 1893 Glas­gow Evening Cit­i­zen lock-out on the St Bride’s Library blog.