Long hours were another cause of disputes. Protesters however could find themselves out of a job if they complained. The employees of Dobsons, the Bolton machine manufacturers, found a novel way round this problem. In May 1831 they presented their masters with a 'Round Robin' in which the workers had drawn up a petition for shorter working hours and signed their names around an inner and outer circle so that their employers would have no idea who had initiated the petition.
The 'Plug Riots' (so called because the mills were stopped by the drawing of the boiler plugs and, sometimes, the emptying of the reservoirs) of 1842 preceded the first 'general strike' in history. These were followed in the late 1850s by the Preston 'lockout' strikes where workers were locked out of the mills. Later major disputes included ones in weaving in 1878 and in spinning in 1885. The 1892 'lock out' in Stalybridge was also a serious dispute.
A more conciliatory approach to industrial relations became evident towards the end of the century. The Brooklands Agreement of 1893 established a consultation process for spinning that reduced the number of industrial disputes. Major strikes or the threat of strikes, however, did not disappear. There was a 'lock-out' in spinning in 1908. There were many disputes in the interwar years as the industry struggled to maintain markets and workers defended their jobs and living standards.
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The Peterloo Massacre|
The Plug Riots