Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The few Railwaymen on Strike before 1870

While reading an article by P.W. Kingsford on railway labour relations between 1835 and 1875, I was surprised by the seemingly peaceful relationship between railway workers and their employers. Indeed, Kingsford's extensive trawl of railway companies' files only turned up ten examples of strike action in the period, as follows: 

 Of the strikes, nine were actions regarding wages, either asking for increases or preventing decreases, while one, the Eastern Counties Enginemen's strike of 1850, was against disciplinary fines. Only four succeeded. In 1848 London and North Western Enginmen secured an 'understanding' that after a reorganisation a reduction of wages would not take place. The year after, Midland Railway Goods Guards and Porters ensured a reduction of wages would not go ahead. In 1854, Porters on the London and North Western managed to win an increase in wages. Lastly, 1867, Enginmen secured a compromise in a 'right of appeal in promotion.' Curiously, Kingsford doesn't site whether this was secured in the case of the North Eastern or London, Brighton and South Coast Enginemen.[1]


[1] Kingsford, P.W., 'Labour Relations on the Railways, 1835-1875', in Channon, Geoffrey, Railways Volume II: Studies in Transport History, (Aldershot, 1996), p.53

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