By W. Hamish Fraser
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Additional info for A History of British Trade Unionism, 1700-1998
In 1846, it had extended its benefits to include a sick allowance and a superannuation scheme. Other societies had started to link benefits and industrial activities. What was new was the size, the extent of benefits and the efficiency with which the organisation was run. The Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners, formed in 1860, was one of the few societies which consciously took the ASE as a model and neither ever became in any sense 85198c02 29 10/13/98, 9:10 AM 30 A History of British Trade Unionism, 1700–1998 typical of trade-union organisation.
It was difficult to persuade workers with grievances of their own to subordinate themselves to the needs of other workers at the other end of the country. Yet, faced with growing signs of employers’ collaboration and, in almost all industries, pressure for change in work patterns, there was a recognition that co-ordination was necessary. 1 The resulting Amalgamated Society of Engineers (ASE) was larger than any other union. It started with only 5000 members but had 12 000 at the end of its first year and sustained growth over the next quarter century to nearly 40 000.
They believed that co-operative workshops were a way of keeping the unemployed out of the labour market. Before the funds were decimated in the lock-out of 1851, £10 000 had been earmarked for the setting up of co-operative workshops in London. This was not some conversion to classical political economy, an acceptance of the immutable ‘laws’ of supply and demand as propagated in the numerous crude popularisations of John Stuart Mill’s Principles of Political Economy. Trade unionists had long recognised that the longterm unemployed would always be tempted to accept a wage cut in order to find work and, therefore, it made sense to keep them out of the labour market, whether by finding alternative work for them or by providing the means for them to migrate.