Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions

Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions
Full name Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions
Founded 1890
Members 6 unions
Country United Kingdom
Key people Dave Gibbs, General Secretary
Office location London, England

The Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions (CSEU) is a trade union confederation in the United Kingdom.



The confederation was founded in December 1890 as the Federation of Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades by small craft unions, on the initiative of Robert Knight of the United Society of Boilermakers and Iron and Steel Shipbuilders, primarily in response to the formation of a National Federation of Shipbuilders and Engineers by employers.[1] By 1895, sixteen unions were affiliated, with a total membership of 150,000.[2] However, the prominent Amalgamated Society of Engineers (ASE) refused to join.[3] The ASE finally joined in 1905 but, failing to persuade the other members to unite with it in a single industrial union, withdrew again in 1914.[4] Meanwhile, unions representing unskilled workers were initially excluded; the National Amalgamated Union of Labour was finally admitted in 1908, and the National Union of Gasworkers and General Labourers in 1910, and only after they had given assurances that they would permit the craft unions to retain a leading role in the organisation. Because it would not sign a similar agreement, the Workers' Union was never admitted.[5] In its early years, the Federation focussed on resolving demarcation disputes,[2] but it soon concentrated on making national agreements for the engineering and shipbuilding industries, allowing the largest union in each trade to take the lead in negotiations.[6]

The confederation adopted its current form and name in 1936.[6] From 1941, the CSEU co-operated with the Foundry Workers' Union and the Amalgamated Engineering Union in the National Engineering Joint Trades Movement, convincing these two unions to affiliate in 1944 and 1946 respectively. The confederation then represented the vast majority of unionised worked in the relevant industries.[7]

By 1977, the CSEU had 23 affiliates and 2.4 million members, with most workers organised in the relevant sections of the Transport and General Workers Union, General and Municipal Workers Union and Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbing Union.[6] In 1989, membership was still 22 affiliates and 2 million members but, by 2001, this had fallen to 1.2 million members,[7] and a process of union mergers has greatly reduced the number of affiliated unions and the prominence of the organisation. All current affiliates are also members of the Trades Union Congress.

Current members

General Secretaries

1890: William Mosses
1917: Frank Smith
1942: Gavin Martin
1957: George Barratt
1970: Jack Service
1978: Alex Ferry
1994: Alan Robson
2004: John Wall
2008: Dave Gibbs
2009: Hugh Scullion


  1. ^ Journal, New Zealand Department of Labour (1893), p.72
  2. ^ a b Herbert Tracey, Seventy years of trade unionism, 1868-1938, p.123
  3. ^ Arthur Ivor Marsh and Victoria Ryan, Historical Directory of Trade Unions, p.16
  4. ^ Edmund and Ruth Frow, Engineering struggles, p.32
  5. ^ John P. Lynch, An unlikely success story: the Belfast shipbuilding industry, 1880-1935, p.37
  6. ^ a b c Arthur Ivor Marsh, Trade union handbook, p.84
  7. ^ a b J. C. Doherty, Historical dictionary of organized labor, pp.72-73

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