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Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbing Union

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Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbing Union

Full name Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbing Union
Founded July 1968
Date dissolved 1995
Merged into AEEU
Members 425,000 (1970s)
Affiliation TUC
Key people Frank Chapple, Eric Hammond, Jock Byrne, Tony Dobbins, Ken Jackson, Derek Simpson
Office location London, England, UK
Country United Kingdom
Now part of Unite the Union

The Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbing Union, known as the EETPU, was a British trade union formed in 1968 as a union for electricians,[1] which went through three mergers from 1992 to now be part of Unite the Union.


  • History 1
  • Expulsion from the TUC 2
  • Mergers 3
  • General Secretaries 4
  • General Presidents 5
  • References 6


The union started as the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) which was formed in 1889 and what became the Plumbing Trades Union (PTU) 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 union leadership.

After its leader Jock Byrne suffered a stroke, Frank Chapple became the union's leader in 1966. Unusually for a union leader at the time,Chapple espoused free-market thinking, and he aimed to rid his union of communists; his former union - the ETU had been run by communists. He was a "reluctant loyalist" to the Labour Party. The union went on to advocate nuclear power, privatisation of state-owned industries and membership of the European Union.

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. Archives of government papers show that "a period of severe industrial unrest" began in September 1970.[2] Local authority manual workers wanted a £30 minimum weekly wage. A Committee of Inquiry recommended a 14.5 per cent increase, but the government considered it to be too high. In the winter that followed (i.e. winter of 1970/1971) an electricity power workers strike caused the Cabinet to declare a national emergency. The first miners' strike followed in 1972.

For many years the EETPU owned and operated its own Technical Training Department which was based at Cudham Hall in Kent. This received much acclaim and press attention in its day.

In September 1982, Chapple became leader of the TUC and was succeeded by Eric Hammond in 1984. Chapple was elevated to the House of Lords as Lord Chapple of Hoxton in 1985.[3][4]

In 1986 the union's members replaced print workers that had been sacked by News International, prompting the Wapping dispute that led to the irrevocable change of Fleet Street.

Expulsion from the TUC

The union had its own approach to making deals with companies, and thus often clashed with the TUC from which it was expelled for violating the Bridlington Agreement governing the transfer of members between 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.


The union merged with the Amalgamated Engineering Union 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. The AEEU merged with the Manufacturing, Science and Finance (MSF) to become Amicus in 2001. Amicus, the largest private sector union with 1.2m workers, was led by Derek Simpson since June 2002. Tony Dubbins, of the NGA in the Wapping dispute, became Joint Deputy General Secretary in 2004. Amicus merged with the Transport and General Workers' Union in May 2007 to become Unite the Union.

General Secretaries

1889: R. Steadman
1891: A. J. Walker
1904: James Rowan founder of the Mexborough ETU and Mayor of Mexborough UK who served unopposed 1904 - 1941 [5]
1941: Ernest Bussey
1948: Walter Stevens
1955?: Frank Haxell
1961: Jock Byrne
1968: Frank Chapple
1984: Eric Hammond

General Presidents

1908: J. W. Ball
1931: Ernest Bussey
1941: H. P. Bolton
1945: Frank Foulkes
1962: Les Cannon
1972: Frank Chapple (jointly with general secretary post)
1976: Position abolished


  1. ^ Lloyd, John (1990). Light & liberty : a history of the EETPU. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson.  
  2. ^ "Government archives". 
  3. ^ Goodman, Geoffrey (22 October 2004). "Obituary: Lord Chapple". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  4. ^ "Union leader Lord Chapple dead". BBC News. 20 October 2004. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  5. ^ A man amongst men. edited by Stephen James Rowan (Canberra Australia)
  • Rogers, Roy (2 March 1989). "Unions Prepare Path For Merger". The Glasgow Herald. p. 5. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  • Rogers, Roy (18 May 1989). "Union's Ban On Communists Stays .". The Glasgow Herald. p. 7. Retrieved 7 January 2013. The moderate leadership of the Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbing Union failed yesterday to open the way for the lifting of the 25-year-old ... 
  • Wallace, Alan (18 November 1982). "Join Us, Union Urges Tories". Evening Times (Glasgow). p. 19. Retrieved 7 January 2013. The Right-wing Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications, and Plumbing Union believes it has to take the arguments "beyond the Labour Party and the TUC to those who have influence in our society." 
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