Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbing Union

Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbing Union

Infobox Union
name= EEPTU
country= United Kingdom
affiliation= TUC
members= 425,000 (1970s)
full_name= Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbing Union

founded= July 1968
dissolved_date= 1995
merged_into= AEEU
office= London, England
people= Frank Chapple, Eric Hammond
footnotes= Now part of Amicus

The Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbing Union, known as the EEPTU was a British trade union formed in 1968. It was a union for electricians. It often found itself in unpopular positions with the trade union movement as it chose to work harmoniously with employers rather than in defiance.


The union started as the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) which was formed in 1889 and what became the Plumbing Trades Union which was formed in 1865. The ETU came from the merger of the Union of Electrical Operatives, formed 1868, and the Amalgamated Society of Telegraph and Telephone Construction Men. The PTU started out as the United Operative Plumbers' Association of Great Britain and Ireland, which became the United Operative Plumbers' and Domestic Engineers' Association of Great Britain and Ireland in 1911, then the Plumbers, Glaziers and Domestic Engineers' Union in 1931, before becoming the PTU in 1946. In June 1961, the ETU was taken to court for "conspiracy to defraud" by the undemocratic union leadership. Jock Byrne took over leadership which is when the right-wing ideology of the union gained ground.

Jock Byrne suffered a stroke, which led in 1966, Frank Chapple (August 8th 1921 - October 19th 2004) to become the leader. He espoused free-market thinking, which was unusual for a union leader, and aimed to rid his union of communists; his former union - the ETU had been run by communists. In some ways, he was a man ahead of his time: the era of New Labour. He was a "reluctant loyalist" to the Labour Party. This was just the beginning. The union went on to advocate nuclear power, privatisation of state-owned industries and membership of the European Union. It also co-operated in single union deals with companies - to the smooth the path of employers, and as a result benefitting their union, possibly (or deliberately) at the expense of other unions.

In July 1968, the ETU merged with the PTU to form the Electrical, Electronic & Telecommunications Union & Plumbing Trades Union, which became the Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications & Plumbing Union in 1973. In the early 1970s, electricity was in steep demand, as there were many national power cuts caused by coal miners going on strike.

In September 1982, Frank Chapple became leader of the TUC. Eric Hammond became leader when Frank left in 1984. Frank Chapple became Lord Chapple of Hoxton in 1985. Eric Hammond was not liked by many unions as he tried to modernise working practices.

Wapping dispute

The history of the EEPTU would not be complete without this notorious chapter. In this dispute in January 1986, Rupert Murdoch and the editor of the Sunday Times, Andrew Neil, had to find a strategy to implement new computer technology and printing equipment without the whole scheme being blocked by the trades unions of the printers - the National Graphical Association, led by Tony Dubbins, and SOGAT, led by Brenda Dean. Workers often had to belong to a "closed shop" to work in printing works, and there were many strikes. Working practices would have to be changed and huge redundancies would be unavoidable, as all the laborious printing and typeface setting found in Fleet Street could be simplified using more reliable and less-troublesome computers. This barely involved printers, certainly no-one was needed to produce the typefaces.

So an alternative to asking the NGA and SOGAT politely if they wanted to change on their terms was the only way to get the whole changeover completed. The unions were given no hint or consultation of how the whole long-winded process of printing was going to be unceremoniously ditched and effectively started from scratch. They were relying on stopping the National Union of Journalists members from using the computers. They were entirely duped.

It was a brave new world and not one that was lightly undertaken. An option could be to use printers who did not belong to a union, but the outcome chosen was to use workers who belonged to the EETPU - they were being classed as electricians. This was a loophole to avoid confrontation with the NGA and SOGAT, who were not the greatest advocates of change. It was known as a "sweetheart deal". In November 1986, the TUC decided not to punish the EEPTU for this deal.

Expulsion from the TUC

The union wrote its own rule book when it came to making deals with companies, and often stuck two fingers up at the TUC. It was expelled from the TUC for violating the Bridlington Agreement which stops unions from poaching members from other TUC unions. The EETPU had developed a policy of signing single union agreements in companies where it had few members. In 1987, the TUC asked the EETPU to retract from these agreements at Yuasa (a Japanese battery company), Thorn-EMI and Orion (a Japanese electronics company). The EETPU refused and its 225,000 workers were expelled, which was a relief and revenge for some more left-wing unions.

Once separate from the TUC, communist sections of the union re-emerged in an effort to change the policies of the union.


The union merged with the AEU to become the Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union (AEEU) in May 1992, so the electricians were now part of the TUC. The AEEU was led by Ken Jackson, who belonged to the EETPU, and was knighted in 1999. The AEEU then merged with the Manufacturing, Science and Finance (MSF) to become Amicus in 2001. Amicus, the largest private sector union with 1.2m workers, has been led by Derek Simpson, a left-winger, since June 2002. Tony Dubbins, of the NGA in the Wapping dispute, became Joint Deputy General Secretary in 2004.

General Secretaries

*1968 - 84: Frank Chapple
*1984 - 92?: Eric Hammond

ee also

"Light & Liberty: A history of the EEPTU" by John Lloyd. ISBN 0-297-79662-3

External links

* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3761276.stm Lord Chapple dies in 2004]

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