The nine-day general strike from May 3 to 12 was called by the TUC in support of Britain’s coal miners, who were defending their wages and hours
At the time British coal owners were losing out in the coal export market to competitors in countries like Germany. In an attempt to maintain their profits, mine owners announced plans to reduce miners’ pay and increase their hours. Miners responded with the slogan:
“Not a penny off the pay, not a minute on the day.”
However, one of the compromises involved in the FTU receiving union recognition was that firefighters were prohibited from taking industrial action, so the TUC granted the union an exemption from withdrawing their labour. Despite this, firefighters assisted the strike financially by donating 5% of their wages to the cause, a decision sparked by a false article in the government-run British Gazette that claimed firefighters opposed the strike and had used their hoses on striking trade unionists.
This year also marked the FTU’s affiliation to the Labour Party. The party, created by trade unions in 1900, receives annual fees, taken from political funds, from affiliated members. In return unions make crucial contributions to the party’s democracy, with a say in policy making and in choosing, endorsing and supporting a Labour leader and election candidates
Over the years, however, the union has had a love-hate relationship with the Labour Party. In 1928 the union’s then general secretary, Jim Bradley, no longer supported Labour, believing it to have abandoned the road to socialism, but he returned following pressure from the executive council.
By the general election of 1945 the union had donated £1,000 to Labour’s election fund and given financial support to five of the party’s candidates.