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This union came into being in 1889 as the Printers’ Labourers’ Union for assistants in the machine rooms of London. Its members argued they were not ‘labourers’ and changed the name to the Operative Printers’ Assistants’ Society. When the union recruited outside London, National was added to its title. Finally in 1912, after the union recruited some machine managers, the word “and” was inserted between the words “Printers” and “Assistants”. NATSOPA was born.

In 1938 NATSOPA secured recognition from employers to organise and bargain for clerical and administrative workers in printing firms and newspaper offices but with severe restrictions upon its freedom to represent them. NATSOPA thus organised administrative and clerical grades, copyholders, revisers, machine managers, machine assistants, photo printers, linotype assistants, general assistants and ancillary staff.

Although it claimed to be a “National” union, over 90% of NATSOPA’s membership was employed in London and over half employed in newspapers. The Machine Branch, the Clerical Branch and the Revisers, Ink and Roller Makers and Ancillaries (RIRMA) organised NATSOPA’s London membership. Some 42% of the London Clerical Branch worked in national newspapers. The RIRMA branch encompassed occupational groups such as engravers’ assistants, cleaners, revisers and photo-technicians. The Machine branch organised NATSOPA casual workers in national newspapers. NATSOPA also organised employees in ink manufacturing.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 10:32