Issue date
01 May 2017

e-newsletter of the South West TUC

To receive the newsletter direct to your inbox in future please email your details to [email protected] and ask to subscribe to South West e-news.

If you have news that you want to share with the trade union movement in the South West, please contact Nigel Costley, South West TUC Regional Secretary on [email protected]  or call 0117 947 0521

West Country workers cannot afford another real wages slump

Inflation has overtaken wage growth and working people are still £20 a week worse off on average than they were before the financial crash in 2008. Real earnings are now falling by 0.2%. The South West TUC is calling on all the political parties standing in the region to explain how they’ll create better paid jobs.

Nigel Costley, South West TUC Regional Secretary said: “The last thing South West workers need is another real wage slump. But rising prices are hammering pay packets.

“Any party that’s serious about giving Britain a pay rise will have a plan to create well-paid jobs where we need them most. They will have a plan to raise the minimum wage to £10 as soon as possible. And they will have a plan to stop the unfair pay cuts that are making hard-working midwives, firefighters and nurses thousands of pounds worse off.”

Public sector workers facing further years of falling income levels are being especially hit hard and many key services are struggling to recruit staff.

British workers are stuck in the longest pay squeeze since Victorian times and there is still worse to come. The OECD forecast that that real wages in the UK are on course to fall by -0.5% by the close of 2018 despite real wage growth in other countries will increase by an average of +2.6%. The UK will be one of just five OECD countries to experience a fall in real wages – with only Greece, Italy and Austria set to fare worse over 2017 and 2018.

Why aren’t wages rising?

Kate Bell, TUC Head of the Economic and Social Affairs Department explains why boosting workers’ ability to organise has to be a critical part of the effort to get wages rising again. Read the blog here

What will you earn in 2022

To help you gaze into the future, the TUC has a nifty pay calculator. It will show you what might happen to your own pay under the government’s forecasts.

Try the 2022 pay calculator now

Home is where the work is going

Homeworking in the South West up by 12,000 over the last year. 196,000 employees in the South West worked from home in 2016 - up 6.52% since the previous year. The region has the highest proportion of homeworkers: 1 in 11 workers regularly work from home.

The number of women working from home in the UK has increased by 10.5% (64,000) over the past year but men still account for the majority of homeworkers, with 966,000 regularly working from home in 2016, compared to 673,000 women.

Older employees are more likely to work from home with 1 in 13 workers in their forties and fifties working from home. Just 1 in 36 workers (168,000) in their twenties regularly work from home.

Government research shows that another 4 million UK workers would like to work from home for at least some of their working week but are not given the chance. Properly-managed homeworking can save time and money on commutes, give more flexibility over working time, and make it easier for carers and parents doing the school run.

Homeworking is also an important way for disabled people to access the labour market, currently used by 190,000 disabled people across the UK.

For employers, homeworking makes recruitment easier, can increase productivity, and reduce premises costs. The TUC warns, however, that homeworkers must be properly supported. Homeworkers’ additional bills should be covered, and they should have access to the right equipment.

Work still fails those with mental illness

Only 1 in 4 (26.2%) people with a mental illness or phobia lasting for twelve months or more are in work, according to a new report published by the TUC. Mental health and employment, finds that while 4 in 5 (80.4%) non-disabled people are in work, people with mental illness, anxiety or depression have substantially lower employment rates:

  • Only 1 in 4 (26.2%) people with a mental illness lasting (or expected to last) more than a year are in work.
  • Less than half (45.5%) of people with depression or anxiety lasting more than 12 months are in work.

The TUC is concerned that this suggests employers are failing to make adequate changes in the workplace to enable people with mental illnesses, anxiety or depression to get a job, or stay in work. Mental health problems can often be 'invisible' to others, so a lack of mental health awareness amongst managers and employers is also likely to be a factor.

The TUC report is here Mental health and employment

Safety after Brexit

The TUC’s new briefing, Protecting Health and Safety after Brexit, warns trade unionists and working people that health and safety protections are at risk from the government’s Brexit plans. The briefing outlines the relationship between UK and EU regulation, the potential risks to health and safety regulation that the Government’s Brexit proposals pose and what unions should be seeking.

Bridgwater Argos workers set for two week strike

Deliveries to Argos stores could be severely disrupted when up to 1,400 warehouse workers, including those employed at the Huntworth near Bridgwater site, strike in a dispute over job security and terms and conditions.

The warehouse workers who prepare deliveries for Argos stores are fearful that a contracting-out culture will lead to job losses and a deterioration in their terms and conditions.

See more here

Solidarity Hour

Friday May 19th 4-5pm, when senior Unite reps will be present

ARGOS, Huntworth Business Park, Bridgwater TA6 6TS

Bridgwater Trades Union Council is calling for local trades unionists to show solidarity with the 280 Unite members at the Huntworth picket lines, staffed, as a minimum, around shift change-overs at 6am, 2pm and 10pm every week-day.

RMT strike at Arriva

Friday 19th May Picket line 5.30am to 7pm.

Arriva Train Care, Barton Hill Depot, Days Road, Bristol

RMT members had a 96% ballot in favour of strike action across the country because Arriva won't negotiate with the union over pay and conditions. RMT Branch officers, reps and members are welcome to visit the picket line and give support.

Poole shipping protest

RMT members protested against low-cost crewing in the shipping industry – as practiced by local employer Condor Ferries – outside the European Maritime Day conference in Poole. Over 500,000 seafarers work in European waters, yet most (56%) are non-EU nationals on poverty pay. 87,000 ratings jobs in the UK shipping industry, yet only 10% are held by UK seafarers with 3,000 UK ratings set to retire by 2020.

Living on the edge

Monday 26th June 9am-4.30pm

Congress house, London WC1B 3LS

Job insecurity is still on the rise in Britain. Ten years on from the Commission on Vulnerable Employment, the TUC is hosting a major conference to discuss how unions and other civil organisations can tackle insecure work. To improve protections for insecure workers in the UK, the TUC is calling for the political parties to make manifesto commitments to:

  • Ban zero-hours contracts: people working regular hours should have a right to a guaranteed-hours contract.
  • Give people on variable-hours contracts a right to overtime pay for hours outside of their contracts.
  • Give all workers to have a right to a written statement of terms, conditions and working hours, from day one.
  • Ensure everyone at work to get the same rights as an employee, unless the employer can show that they are genuinely self-employed.
  • Guarantee agency workers the going rate for the job, on an equal basis with directly-employed workers.

Speakers include: Frances O'Grady, General Secretary of the TUC; Matthew Taylor, head of the government's independent review into modern employment practices; Trade Union general secretaries and union organisers from the front line of the fight against insecure work.

Register your place here

Apprentice rights at work

Unionlearn and TUC Education have a new eNote – online course  –  aimed at helping apprentices, and those who support them, understand their rights at work.

The new interactive eNote Apprenticeships – know your rights explains why a quality Apprenticeship is a great way to earn money while developing skills for a rewarding career, and explains that new apprentices will be entering the world of work but learning as they do so, studying for a qualification, and possibly a degree.

The eNote answers lots of questions that new apprentices need to know and

highlights what makes a high quality apprenticeship, what commitment an apprentice would have to sign up to and gives a number of case studies around different apprentices. To access the new eNote click here

Ines Lage sets to work

The South West TUC has recruited Ines Lage as its new Policy and Campaigns Support Officer. Ines has come from Bristol Citizens Advice where she has given support to clients on a wide range of issues as well as being involved in a number of local campaigns. Born in Portugal, Ines studied law at the University of Bristol including spending a year teaching English in France.

Zero tolerance of gender-based violence

By signing the Bristol Zero Tolerance pledge, the South West TUC has confirmed it will continue to push for decent jobs in Bristol, fight to end discrimination and gender-based violence, and support unions to ensure that all workers are protected from abuse and harassment.

Read the Blog here

John Bees funeral

Tuesday 23rd May 11.15am

St Mary's church, High Street, Shirehampton Bristol BS11 0DU 

The funeral of John Bees will be at St Mary’s Chruch and followed by committal at Canford Crematorium at 12.45pm. Then back the Shirehampton working men's club - food will be available.   

John was chair of the former TGWU South West region. He was the convenor at The Bristol Port Company for many years, including during the years of transition from public to private ownership. He also served as a leading Bristol City Councillor for many years.

John’s family really want people to come and celebrate his life and would welcome seeing people even if they can only attend part of the day.  

Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival

14-16th July

Weekend bookings for this year’s Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival are now open. The music programme includes a wide range of performers to suit all tastes. The legendary Mekons will play on the main stage on Sunday 16th July. On the Saturday evening comic Francesca Martinez is bound to go down well with the Tolpuddle audience. Many of the discussion sessions, debates and speakers will be confirmed closer to the event.
The Tolpuddle Radical History School will focus on War and Revolution in the centenary year of the dramatic events in Russia.

Festival stewards

Tolpuddle always values the hard work out festival stewards put into the event each year – and when the chance of giving something back by linking with POA Learning to offer a free qualification this seemed too good an opportunity to miss. Whilst we know that not all out stewards will be interested – it’s a good chance for those that are to develop their knowledge and understanding of how to safely steward a large event.

Appeal to display Tolpuddle vicar’s letters

The Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Museum has sent an appeal to unions to help purchase and display letters written by the Rev'd Warren to his nephew in the 1830s. The Tolpuddle farm workers went to the local vicar to plead for his support in resisting pay cuts. He promised to support them should the employers cut the pay any further. When their poverty wages were cut again the Rev'd denied making the pledge.
Warren tells his nephew: "The papers tell you of the disturbances in our village, and the transportation of six of my parishioners: while there was hope, I did my endeavour to get their punishment mitigated, for the sake of their miserable wives and families. But these Unions must be put a stop to or the country will be together by the ears."
Warren goes on to say: "On Sunday, they came to me with a petition to parliament, so worded, that I could not sign it. Last night they broke every pane in the lower range of my drawing room window, eight squares!"
The Museum plans to use these letters for high-profile events during 2018, the TUC 150th anniversary year and it hopes that unions will share this excitement and be prepared to support this project with a contribution. The Museum needs to raise around £5,000 – contact [email protected] for more information.

March against school budget cuts

Saturday 20th May 11am

Assemble College Green, Bristol

Schools and colleges are under severe strain with the biggest real terms cuts to per pupil funding in a generation. This means teachers and support staff being cut, class sizes up, less attention for children, early-year and SEN support cut and fewer subjects taught. The NUT is organising a march through Bristol to protest the cuts and demand fair funding for all schools.

Sylvia Pankhurst, The Dreadnought and the ‘Great War’

Thursday 25th May 7-9pm
Hydra Bookshop, 34 Old Market St, Bristol BS2 0EZ
During the First World War Sylvia Pankhurst’s newspaper, The Dreadnought was the most consistently anti-war publication. It not only opposed the global conflict but condemned the crushing of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, supported the 1917 Russian Revolution and campaigned for a revolution in Britain.

With Professor Newsinger, the author of The Blood Never Dried: A People’s History of the British Empire (2006), Fighting Back: The American Working Class in the 1930s (2012) and most recently The Revolutionary Journalism of Big Bill Haywood: On the Picket Line with the IWW (2016).

Dorset Radical Bookfair

Saturday 3rd June 10:30am-5.30pm

Portfield Rd, Christchurch BH23 2AQ

The Somme 1916: From Both Sides of the Wire

Monday 5th June 8pm

The Cube Cinema, Dove Street, Bristol BS2 8JD

End Game questions the broadly accepted idea that the Somme campaign was the ‘decisive victory’, British Commander in Chief William Haig claimed it to be. To do this, it examines the revealingly different military cultures of the British and Germany armies, not just in terms of their contrasting tactics but in their attitudes to military discipline, showing how the British executed more than ten times as many deserters as the Germans. The BBC programme will be introduced by Michael Poole, its executive producer, who recently retired from the BBC.

Price: £4/£3 concessions

Walk for Southern Africa

Sunday 18th June Registration 10am, walk starts at 10.30am

Pound Cottage, Priddy, Somerset

A 10k circular fundraising walk organised by Bristol Action for Southern Africa. For more information, sponsor form, transport etc. Sheila [email protected]

Morning Star Five a Side Football Competition

Sunday 30th July 1-6pm

Filton Sports and Leisure Centre, Elm Park, Filton, Bristol BS34 7PJ

Teams must include both male and female players, 8 players/team (substitution allowed)

Entrance fee £25/team (applications by 20th July)

Each team guaranteed 3 matches. Team sponsorship welcomed

To enter a team/further details contact Steve Strong 07990550724  [email protected]