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.