Labour History Review

'A Union for Busmen!' The National Busworkers' Association, 1950–1955

Labour History Review (2006), 71, (3), 235–252.


The National Busworkers' Association (NBA) broke away from the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR) in 1950 but, by 1954, the new union had all but collapsed. The feeling that busworkers' concerns were not taken seriously enough by the NUR precipitated the breakaway. Weaknesses in the NUR's local organization made the union vulnerable to the predatory instincts of the NBA. The NBA also made progress because of the generous benefits the union offered. The emergence of the NBA exposed tensions between the NUR and the TGWU, which wanted to organize all busmen in the country. The internal struggle of dissidents within the NUR to alter the union's constitution to make the union more accommodating to busmen and other occupational groups is discussed. The devolution of negotiating power to busmen within the NUR is examined and the reasons why the breakaway did not succeed are explored. This was mainly because the bus companies, encouraged by the Government, steadfastly refused to recognise the union for negotiating purposes. The NBA also failed to make much progress beyond its stronghold in the Hampshire and Dorset Motor Company. This was partly because of loyalty to the NUR in other undertakings and partly because the breakaway was prompted by local factors. The Hampshire busmen had rebelled against the NUR by staging unofficial action during negotiations with the companies over working condition in 1947. In so doing, they put themselves at loggerheads with the other busmen members of the NUR. It is possible that this episode also helped to prompt the NBA breakaway three years later.

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Author details

Temple, Richard