Catalogue description Records relating to the Regulation of Trade Unions

Details of Division within FS
Reference: Division within FS
Title: Records relating to the Regulation of Trade Unions

Records relating to the regulation of trade unions.

Statutory documents of trade unions submitted to the Registry are in FS 7, FS 11, FS 12, FS 26, FS 27, and FS 28 ; lists, indexes and copies of certificates of registration are in FS 25. Correspondence and certification files are in FS 24 and FS 29, with registered files in FS 33. Unsuccessful applications for registration as trade unions are in FS 34.

The following series are not used: FS 30, FS 36 and FS 37.

Date: 1848-1978

Files used by the Registry of Friendly Societies had three stages in their life-cycle: firstly, they were known as record files, containing current information about the union or association, and some correspondence; subsequently they became intermediate files, the contents of which had been superseded by more recent information; ultimately they became dead files, relating to unions or associations which had been removed from the register.

Related material:

For records of the Registry of Trade Unions and Employers see: NF

Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English
Physical description: 14 series
Administrative / biographical background:

The objects of trade unions were defined within the Trade Union Acts 1871 to 1964. These Acts permitted any organisation believing its principal objects to be of the nature defined, to register with the registrar. Registration conferred certain privileges and protections not available to an unregistered union. Alternatively, the union could apply to the registrar for 'certification' as a trade union. This was simply a formal recognition that the body was a trade union, and would be accepted in a court of law, but carried none of the advantages of registration. A body might cease to be a union if its principal objects changed, and it might then be removed from the register. Registered unions represented about 90% of the total membership of the trade unions of employees, but it is probable that a considerable number of organisations eligible for registration, particularly associations of employers, were neither registered nor certified.

The registrar had only limited powers over trade unions. He could collect and publish statistics about membership, sources of income and heads of expenditure. Under the Trade Union Act 1913 any member of a trade union could complain to the registrar if he considered that he was aggrieved by a breach of any of the rules governing the political fund of a trade union. After hearing the complaint the registrar could make such order as he thought fit for remedying the breach. Apart from this and certain responsibilities under the Trade Unions (Amalgamations etc) Act 1964 he had no functions as arbiter between trade unions and their members.

The Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers' Associations 1965-1968 recommended that an independent review body be established to provide for cases of alleged trade union election malpractice to be investigated and brought to trial, and to take over the functions of the Registry of Friendly Societies concerning trade unions. The Registry of Trade Unions and Employers' Associations was created to fulfil this role under the Industrial Relations Act, 1971, which instituted a completely new system of trade union regulation. This Registry was abolished by the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act 1974 which broadly restored the pre-1971 position. In 1976 the responsibility for the surviving work, which had been returned to the registrar of friendly societies, was passed to the certification officer appointed under the Employment Protection Act 1975.

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