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Last updated:27 April 2015

Police Strike ballot 1919

The ballot form is a new accession to the Library.

police strike of 1919

In 1870 police in Newcastle Upon Tyne were in a dispute over pay and working conditions and in 1872 and 1890 the Metropolitan Police were involved in work stoppages for better pay, working conditions and pensions.

In 1913 the National Union of Police and Prison Officers (NUPPO) was formed. Officers were banned from joining the union and any found to be associated with it were instantly dismissed.

In 1918 the Metropolitan Police went on strike over pay and working conditions, the dismissal of Constable Theil for union activities and for recognition of the NUPPO. On 30 August 1918, 12,000 men (nearly the whole of the Metropolitan Police force) went on strike. The Prime Minister, Lloyd George called a meeting with the NUPPO and the strike was settled on the same day. All the demands were meet except for the recognition of the union, which Lloyd George said could not happen in War time.

Police Strike ballot formpolice strike of 1919 ballot paper

In May 1919, the NUPPO issued a strike ballot calling for recognition of the union, re-instatement of PC Spackman and others and an increase in pay and pensions. The majority voted in favour of strike action, but the strike was postponed indefinitely.


PC Spackman

After the 1918 strikes, representative boards for police officers were established in an attempt to go around the NUPPO. The NUPPO boycotted the boards.

In April 1919 PC Spackman was dismissed from the Metropolitan Police for urging police officers to operate the boycott.

Police Strike 1919

In July 1919 a bill was issued for the Police Act 1919, this established the Police Federation, to represent officers concerns and welfare, but it forbade police from joining unions and made strike action by police illegal. It also outlawed the NUPPO.

The Metropolitan Police called for a strike, but only a small number took part. This may have been because the Government had given the police a generous pay increase in May 1919 as a result of the Desborough report. Half the police in Liverpool went on strike and this resulted in massive riots, looting and several deaths.

The strikes failed and the strikers were dismissed. The Police Act was passed on 1 August 1919 and remains in force today.

Find out more

If you want to find out more about the police strike 1919, we hold the Police and Prison Officers' Magazine (journal of the NUPPO), Dec 1918-Nov 1919. Also a book - ‘The night the police went on strike' by Gerald W. Reynolds and Anthony Judge.

August 2010

Click here to find out more about people's working lives and about trade unions

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