National Union of General and Municipal Workers

Scope and Content

The collection consists of NUGMW reports and minutes bound by year, 1925-1986 (there are gaps for the years 1935, 1938-1940, 1943-1944, 1951, 1962-1969); minutes of the General Council and National Executive Committee, July 1924 - Dec 1932, 1934-1935; minutes of the National Joint Industrial Council for the Electricity Supply Industry, 1919-1985, excluding 1947; minutes of the NJIC for the Electricity Supply Industry - Workmen's Side Minutes, 1925-1931, 1947; minutes of the Electricity Supply Industry (East Midland Area), Feb 1920 - Oct 1936 (including the minutes of the Workers' Side of the No.6 and No. 7 Area Electricity District Joint Industrial Council, July1942-Feb 1955; minutes of the National Joint Industrial Council for the Gas Industry, 1937-1979; minutes of the NJIC for the Waterworks Undertakings Industry, 1919-1977; minutes of the NJIC for the Waterworks Undertakings Industry - Trade Union Side, Nov 1935-Mar 1949, July 1949-Mar 1977; Reports and Statements for Congress, 1936-1972 (incomplete); Annual Reports for the Gas Industry, 1919-1949; NUGMW Half-Yearly Reports and Balance Sheets, 1924-1935; Files on the Gas Industry, 1938-1964; Files on the Electricity Supply Industry, including one on the Wilberforce Enquiry, 1964-1971, Files and correspondence on the Water Services, 1970-1980; Local Authorities Wage Claims, 1965-1974; Standing Commission on Local Authorities, 1979-1983; Standing Commission on the NHS, 1979; various union publications, 1939-1979, miscellaneous publications, 1919-1980, GMW/NUGMW journal, 1931-1984 (no issues for 1941, Mar-Dec 1974, 1975, Feb-Dec 1984).

Administrative / Biographical History

The establishment of the NUGMW on July 1st 1924 brought together the National Union of General Workers, the National Amalgamated Union of Labour, and the Municipal Employees' Association. The National Union of General Workers had been founded in 1889 as the National Union of Gas Workers and General Labourers of Great Britain and Ireland. Originally, its members worked in the gas, electricity and cable-making industries, but it later recruited from other areas, including the industries connected with iron and steel, building materials, chemicals and rubber, food and drink, textiles, and shipbuilding. These changes in membership prompted numerous alterations to the union's name, until in 1916 it finally became known as the National Union of General Workers, with a large proportion of those it represented living and working in London and Lancashire. The National Amalgamated Union of Labour, also founded in 1889, looked after the interests of those employed in shipbuilding and repairing, and the engineering and iron and steel industries in Liverpool, Belfast, Glasgow, South Yorkshire and along the north-east coast, as well as colliery surface workers, cement and chemical workers, corporation workers and those from consumer industries. The Municipal Employees' Association, meanwhile, was founded in 1894 to protect manual workers employed by local authorities, and by 1918 had also set its sights on attracting local government officers to its ranks.

Prior to the creation of the NUGMW the three unions had tried and failed to join with other groups. The NUGW had wanted to merge with the London dockers, while for a time, the NAUL, MEA and the Workers' Union were governed by a joint executive committee and had plans for a full amalgamation, but these hopes were dashed when the Workers' Union withdrew. With the NUGW, the NAUL and MEA each representing general workers their eventual amalgamation was inevitable, and as one body they could participate more successfully in collective bargaining. Preparations for the formation of the NUGMW eventually got underway and much was finalized during several days of meetings between the 12th and 15th February 1924.

After amalgamation, the branch membership of the three unions was reorganized into twelve districts of varying sizes, but from 1937, this number was reduced to ten. District Councils elected members to the General Council, the union's supreme judicial body which met every quarter, and it in turn elected ten from among its lay members and district secretaries to serve alongside the General Secretary and President on the National Executive. The first General Secretary to be appointed was Will Thorne, founder of the National Union of Gas Workers and General Labourers, who served until 1934, while representatives from the NAUL and MEA became his Assistant General Secretaries. The General Secretary was a key figure at the meetings of Congress (the union's final authority), reporting on union business and debating proposals. Congress occurred every two years until 1946 and annually thereafter. This structure remained in place throughout the union's existence, allowing, for central control coupled with effective regional organization. From 1969, following a review of the structure by Lord Cooper (General Secretary from1962 until 1973), it was decided that each branch should specialize more in the particular industries to which the majority of its members belonged so as to encourage participation in the union at local level. Each district was also to arrange conferences relating to five or six of its most prevalent industries and these were to be supplemented by similar events at a national level, in order that the union remained relevant to its diverse membership. In terms of its wider responsibilities, much of the union's work involved negotiating wages and conditions, and it was heavily involved with national joint industrial councils.

Over the years the NUGMW merged with other unions, including the South Durham and North Yorkshire Salt Makers' Union in 1955, the Union of Salt, Chemical and Industrial General Workers in 1969, the National Union of Waterworks Employees in 1972, the United Rubber, Plastics and Allied Workers of Great Britain in 1974, the Scottish Professional Footballers' Association in 1975, and the Cooper and Allied Workers Federation of Great Britain in 1979. By 1974 it had changed its name to the General and Municipal Workers' Union. In 1982 it merged with the Amalgamated Society of Boilermakers, Blacksmiths, Shipbuilders and Structural Workers to form the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trades Union (GMBATU), which would go on to become the GMB in 1987.

Note: The date range of this collection does not correspond exactly with the period of the union's existence. Reasons for the inclusion of earlier and later material are given at the appropriate levels in the catalogue.


H.A.Clegg, General Union; A Study of the National Union of General and Municipal Workers. Oxford: Blackwell, 1954.

H.A.Clegg, General Union in a Changing society. Oxford: Blackwell, 1964.

Jack Cooper, Lord Cooper Writes and Speaks No. 3, Manchester: Co-operative Press Ltd, [1969].

GMB, The Birth of a Union. Retrieved June 26, 2010 from

NUGMW, Sixty Years of the National Union of General and Municipal Workers, Great Britain: Shenval Press, 1949.

Trade Union Ancestors, A Short History of the GMB and Gasworkers. Retrieved June 26, 2010 from

Working Class Movement Library, Gas and General Workers Unions - The National Union of General and Municipal Workers. Retrieved June 26, 2010 from general-workers-unions/


The papers are arranged under headings which relate to the various functions carried out by the union. Within these large groupings, records are subdivided according to type, such as minutes or journals. The Section entitled 'Operations and Union Work' contains records which cover the union's involvement with individual industries and public bodies, while 'Research and Evidence' contains papers submitted as evidence by the union as well as reports which pre-date the union and miscellaneous publications collected for reference and research purposes. All reports and minutes containing information on decisions taken by the NUGMW are kept under 'Policy and Administration'.

Access Information

This collection is available to researchers by appointment at the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick. See

Other Finding Aids

Conditions Governing Use

Usual copyright regulations apply

Appraisal Information

All records have been retained.

Custodial History

The initial deposit of GMB-related material was made in 1978. Later accruals were made by P. Carter of the GMB between 1979 and 1998. Some material was gifted and some deposited.


Accruals are unlikely.

Related Material

The Modern Records Centre also holds collections for the following: the National Union of Gasworkers and General Labourers, the National Amalgamated Union of Labour, and the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trades Union. For relations between the NUGMW and the TGWU (1924 -1965) see MSS.126/TG/1141/A/1-7, MSS.126/Z/155 and MSS.126./TG/1141/A1/1/1 - A1/15/10. For correspondence between the NUGMW and the ISTC (1934-1961) see MSS.36/N29.

The Working Class Movement Library has collections for the following: the National Union of Gasworkers and General Labourers (minutes, reports, balance sheets and miscellaneous papers, 1889 -1915); the Municipal Employees Association (reports and balance sheets, 1908 -1918); the Coopers & Allied Workers' Federation (correspondence only, 1977-79).

The Labour History Archive and Study Centre (People's History Centre) also has a National Union of General and Muncipal Workers collection, consisting mainly of correspondence with General Secretaries, 1945-1964. (Ref: LP/GS/NUGMW/1-54).