In 1831 another strike took place,
this time a more turbulent affair involving the
colliers, who struck for higher wages. The employers
criticised the unions and stated that in the future they
would not employ union men. On the 7th December a large
number of colliers marched into Wolverhampton, and were
met by the Wolverhampton Troop of the Staffordshire
Yeomanry, assisted by a detachment of the 7th Hussars
from Birmingham. Although peace was maintained, 3 canal
boats were sunk, pit ropes were cut, and several
colliers broke into the Bilston lock-up to release
imprisoned strikers. By the end of the month the strike
ended after slight concessions were granted by the
tin plate workers’ strike
It was against this background that
a hard-fought strike took place in the japanning and tin
plate industry in 1850. At the time the industry had
greatly expanded, orders were numerous, and profits
high. The National Trades Association of London sent two
delegates, Mr. Peel, and Mr. Green to the leading
Wolverhampton manufacturers to inform them that their
workers were dissatisfied with their wages. They visited
F. Walton & Company, Shoolbread & Loveridge, Henry
Fearncombe, Edward Perry, Richard Perry & Son, and J.
Thurstons, to inform them that they would act as
mediators between the employers and the workforce.
Rates of pay varied between one
employer and another, and the mediators informed them
that rates of pay would be standardised. They intended
to produce a standard rates book, and when this was
done, all employers would be compelled to pay the
standard rates. This came as a shock to the employers,
who resented the outside interference, preferring to
deal with their own workman themselves.
Two of the employers, F. Walton &
Company, and Shoolbread and Loveridge decided to accept
the new rates of pay, whereas the others were unwilling
to accept the terms that were dictated by the union.
They decided to play for time before the inevitable
conflict, by asking for time to consider the demands.
They entered into two-year hiring agreements with as
many of their workers as possible to minimise the impact
of any industrial unrest.
Two of the employers, Edward Perry,
and Richard Perry & Son discovered that their workers
were being incited to take industrial action by a
workman named Preston, who was instantly sacked. Upon
hearing this, the two union delegates demanded his
immediate reinstatement, otherwise the workers would be
called out on strike. They said that they could keep the
strikers out indefinitely because they had a reserve
fund of £20,000, and levies from all of the trade
societies in the country.
The two employers refused to be
threatened in this way, and decided to have no further
contact with the delegates. The National Trades Council
responded by calling a strike at Edward Perry’s factory.