'The shop steward' wrote R. Page Arnot 'was originally a minor official appointed from the men in a particular workshop and charged with the duty of seeing that all the Trade Union contributions were paid. He had other small duties. But gradually, as the branch got more and more out of touch with the men in the shop, these men came to look to the official who was on the spot to represent their grievances.... In some big industrial concerns, composed of a number of workshops, the committees of stewards from the various shops very largely took over the whole conduct of negotiations and arrangement of shop conditions.'
This was especially true of the engineering and ship building industries and of the North East, Clydeside and Coventry areas, where the more militant trade unionists began to look to the shop stewards as a permanent alternative leadership.