Saturday 10 March 2018

A Brief History of the ATUC

Vice President, Kathleen Kennedy
Kathleen Kennedy Vice President gave a very brief account of the history of Aberdeen Trades Union Council at the Aberdeen City Council's Civic Reception

ATUC began obviously in 1868 given we are celebrating our 150th year this year and the launch of our anniversary celebrations being this Aberdeen City Council's civic reception  
When preparing for this talk Kathleen discovered the foundations were being laid before that - in fact in 1846 as there was an 'agreement' between different trades to support each other as the textile industry collapsed and the service sector began inhibited the development of trade unionism - well nothing changed there? But they haven't yet and they won't!

In 1868 during a 10 weeks Stone Mason's strike in the Granite City saw the coming together of 13 societies of masons and branches under  the leadership of John Jessiman  chairmanship to form the Trades Council - which we know as ATUC.
Morag Lawrence's (Assistant secretary) Great Gran was affected by this strike, in fact she was going to a wedding and couldn't afford new clothes for the wedding! So she and others went into a shop here in Aberdeen. Tried on new clothes and then putting on their own clothes on top and left without paying! They did get caught and Morag's Great Gran was imprisoned - this shows the impact of the strike and the hardship it meant for people - it's good to see Morag as part of the ATUC today and illustrates just how much her family has been in trade unionism over the years.

 By 1873 in the trade council there were 50 delegates from 20 different trades and they met in the Trades Centre in Belmont Street which is now the Belmont Cinema.
In 1880 ATUC led and co-ordinated support for trade unions on campaigns and strikes for a shorter working day to be 8 hours fixed and legislated  which we are thankful about even today!

ATUC has also  played their part in political campaigns such as provision for free school meals for needy children and free libraries we cannot take these things for granted. 

In 1895 ATUC played a major part in was initiating the first STUC Congress to be held and two years later there was the first Scottish Trades Union Congress was held!
By 1980 with Ron Webster (who is still active today)  was secretary and there was 70 societies and branches representing over 26,000 members! But by then it was predominately public sector employees! Ron tells then the ATUC had a lot more property than ATUC does today as then they had 2 floors in a building in the Aldephi and 7 offices. Ron recalls that if ever they had a guess speaker at ATUC or even when they had their AGM it wasn't uncommon to have police present - we don't have today thankfully - but it shows the strong feeling about Trade Unionism back then!

Through this history account - it shows the strength in ATUC then and we hope it continues.