The Printers Collection launch party. View the gallery here



  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
  • default style
  • green style
  • red style
  • orange style
Sunday 23 Apr 2017
You are here:
Printers and Unions
Printers and Unions - Paper mill Workers PDF Print E-mail
Article Index
Printers and Unions
Unite - The Union
Globalisation and Technological Change
All Pages

Paper mill Workers

Papermakers were also amongst the earliest trade unionists. The Original Society of Papermakers (OSP) was formed in 1800. Its members were handmade-paper craftsmen who had served a seven-year apprenticeship. The union’s head office was in Kent, the principal centre of the trade, but the union was formed as the industry entered decline resulting from the introduction of papermaking machines. In 1826 the Society became divided by an internal dispute over pay rates for a new method of making lightweight paper. This ended in the formation of a breakaway society in 1830. The two societies, known as the Star and the Deckle, relaxed their qualifications for membership. In 1837 the two unions reunited as the Original Society of Paper workers. The OSP continued to exist for a further 100 years until joining the NUPB&PW in 1948.

OSP craft pride prevented adjustment to the new conditions. The growing workforce of machine men and finishers in the machine mills were without union representation so in September 1854 formed the United Brotherhood of Paper workers. A number of its members objected to its formation and in 1869 formed a breakaway union, the Modern Society of Papermakers. This Society and the United Brotherhood pursued their separate paths for a quarter of a century before joining together in 1894 as the Amalgamated Society of Papermakers (ASP). It represented the beatermen, machine men and finishers – the craftsmen of the machine mills - whilst the OSP represented craftsmen in the vat mills, so called after the large tank or “vat” in which they worked. In 1937, the ASP joined the NUPB&PW.

There were semi-skilled and unskilled workers in papermaking establishments. The National Union of Papermill Workers (NPUMW) came into existence in 1890 to cater for their interests. On its formation, there were three craft paper worker unions. The OSP failed to adjust to the factory age. Machine-produced paper had two craft unions – the United Brotherhood and the Modern Society – catering for men in charge of machines and included overseers and foremen. The National Union of Papermill Workers was open to all male and female workers over 16 years of age employed within a paper mill. At the time of its formation, unskilled employees in paper mills worked for 72 hours for wages of 75p per week. In 1914, the union amalgamated with the National Society of Printers’ Warehousemen and Cutters to create the National Union of Printing and Paper Workers, which merged in 1921 with the National Union of Bookbinders and Machine Rulers to form the National Union of Printing, Bookbinding, Machine Ruling and Paper Workers (NUPBMR&PW).

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 10:32