Labour History Review

The Friendly and Welfare Provision of British Trade Unions: A Case Study of the South Wales Miners' Federation

Labour History Review (2012), 77, (2), 189–210.

Abstract

This article examines the provision of friendly benefits and welfare services by British trade unions through a case study of the South Wales Miners' Federation. It engages with the historiography on these issues initiated by the Webbs in the 1890s (but only taken up fitfully by historians during the course of the twentieth century) that focused on the role that the provision of these benefits and services played in the approaches of British trade unions to industrial relations, and in particular whether or not they blunted the militancy of such trade unions and led to the reformism of the working class. A case study of the South Wales Miners' Federation moves the discussion away from the craft unions of the nineteenth century and offers a consideration of these important issues in the very different social, political, and industrial contexts of the twentieth century. It is found that trade unions were motivated by a range of different factors in the provision they made to members, their families, and the communities in which their lodges or branches were situated and that by the twentieth century even unions with a reputation for militancy utilized those types of provision more usually associated with the reformist approach of trade unions in the nineteenth century.

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Author details

Thompson, Steven