Toggle high contrast
Issue date
A round-up of union news from across the South West

Want to hear from us about our latest news, campaigns and events? Sign up today

A glorious coast doesn't pay the bills

The latest edition of West Country Workers highlights the plight of coastal communities. The packed edition includes an interview with Angela Rayner Labour's health secretary following her weekend in Tolpuddle. Hannah Packham the new Regional Secretary for the National Education Union speaks about the pressure on schools, the impact of Universal Credit is exposed and student climate strikers meet the Environment Agency staff thanks to PCS.

Your copy can be download here or you can order hard copies from


School cuts strike

National Education Union members working in Richard Huish College, Taunton will be taking a day of strike action on Wednesday 20 November to demand more funding for their students and their colleges. There is currently an overall £700 million shortfall in funding for Post 16 Education.

Teaching staff numbers and support staff posts have fallen significantly due to the real-terms cuts, while at the same time student numbers have risen. This is putting the future of Sixth Form Colleges under serious threat. If the crisis continues to go unaddressed, it is students’ education that will continue to suffer.  

Robin Head of the National Education Union, said: “NEU members at Richard Huish College have a very clear message for Government, and their anger is growing. Each day they see the effects of shameful cuts to 16-19 funding, which have gone on much longer and much deeper than in any other school sector.”

There will be a picket line from 7.30am to 9.30pm and trades unionists are invited to show their solidarity.

School Cuts

The trade union-backed School Cuts coalition has launched a fully updated interactive map of England’s schools. It shows that 83% of schools will be worse off next year than they were in 2015.

Check here to see if your school on the list?

Equal Pay Day

14 November was declared Equal Pay Day by the Fawcett Society. This is the day in the year when women effectively begin to work for free, based on a comparison of the gap between earnings for male and female workers.

The median average gap between men and women for all employees in the South West is close to the UK average at 17.6%. But this hides some wide variations. The highest pay gaps are in constituencies of Tewkesbury (31.4%), South Swindon (30%), North Somerset (29.6%), Chippenham (28.6), Christchurch (28.1%) and Bridgewater and West Somerset (27.9) where there are clusters of well-paid jobs, held mainly by men. Having a small pay gap in the region is nothing to celebrate. It is in those areas where all pay tends to be low such as St Ives (4.7%), Bristol South (4%) and Weston-super-Mare (5.7%). The poorest paid area, Torbay shows women are on average paid 3.3% more than men.

For full details check out and

Get wages rising faster for everyone – not just those at the very top

South West fat cats have seen fortunes soar while workers struggle. 

South West workers are still some £20 per week below wages in 2008 in real terms. In contrast the wealthiest people in the region are enjoying eye-watering fortunes. 

Pay for the top 1% of earners has increased faster than for any other income group over the past two years. Britain’s highest earners (those earning £62 an hour or more – or £2,300 and above for a full-time week) increased by 7.6% in real terms between 2016 and 2018 according to TUC analysis. 

Top bosses earn 133 times more than the average worker according to the CIPD, the body for HR professionals. The average FTSE 100 chief executive is paid £1,020 per hour and £3.926 million a year, an increase of 11% from 2018. 

Average pay for chairmen of the UK’s largest companies has risen by almost a third to more than £400,000 since the end of the financial crisis, according to an in-depth analysis reported in the FT. TUC analysis shows that FTSE 100 returns to shareholders rose by 56% between 2014-18. Some people are getting very rich!

At the top of the South West rich list is Sir James Dyson worth some £12.6 billion. He has seen a pay rise of £3.1 billion from the previous year. The inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner has been buying up land on an astonishing scale and with some 25,000 acres, now owns more than the Queen. Although a champion for Brexit, Dyson his company is one of the largest beneficiaries of EU farm subsidies. 

While one in seven workers are skipping meals to make ends meet, those at the top of the earnings pile have built vast fortunes. 

Peter Hargreaves is worth more than £3 billion so the £3 million he gave to the Leave campaign won't have dented his pile too much. He co-founded the Bristol-based Hargreaves Lansdown with fellow accountant Steve Lansdown who is worth around £1.5 billion. 

Chris and Sarah Dawson have amassed some £1.9 billion from the Plymouth-based Range discount stores. 

Sir David Roberts McMurty, worth £13 billion, helped found the Stroud engineering business, Renishaw along with John Deer who is worth some £608 million. 

Ursula and Wilfred Bechtolscheimer, worth more than £1 billion, have had a pay rise of £883 million last year. They run a horse breeding operation in Ampney St Peter in Gloucestershire. Also in the Cotswolds is Lord Vesty, owner of Stowell Park. He saw his earnings jump £3 million up to £731 million. 

Workers have still not recovered earnings from 2008

TUC analysis shows that the average worker in the South West is still earning £19 less per week in real terms than they did in 2008.

The average 4.4% shortfall takes into account the rise in inflation meaning average wages for many have not caught up since the financial crash eleven years ago.

By contrast, weekly wages in the South West grew by £90 a week (25%) in the previous decade 1997-2008.

Not since the start of the nineteenth century has it taken so long for real wages to recover from a slump.

The impact of the pay squeeze has seen real hardship for those on low pay and household debt has soared as families struggle to make ends meet.

UK unsecured household debt rose to £15,880 in the first quarter of 2019, up £1,160 on the previous year, and higher than before the financial crash in 2008.

Torbay remains the poorest earners in the country and the region - with average weekly pay at £354.30 a week.

Cornwall continues to be the poor relation of the South West lagging not too far behind.

And workers in North Somerset have lost the most cash - a whopping £103 less per week since 2008. 

Some of the recent media coverage

The Falmouth Packet 

Revealed: 18k pay gap between Cornwall’s top and bottom earners:

Swindon Advertiser

Swindon's top earners receive 25k a year more than those on lowest salaries:

Bridport News

People at top of wage tree in south west earn average of 22,000 a year more than those at the bottom:

Devon Live
Torbay workers poorest in the South West and in top ten lowest paid in whole country:

Spire FM
REVEALED: £25k pay gap between Wiltshire's top and bottom earners:

Bristol Live

Wage still down from 2008

Child poverty in West Country working households up by 36,000

The number of children growing up in poverty in working households across the South West has risen by 36,000 since 2010, according to new TUC analysis. Child poverty in working families in the region rose to 215,403 in 2018 – an increase of 20% since the start of the decade.

In 2010, 1 in 5 (19%) children in working households were growing up in poverty. In 2018 this had increased to 1 in 4 (24%).

The increase in-work poverty is mainly a direct result of the government’s in-work benefit cuts.

The TUC says that other key factors behind the rise in child poverty are:

  • Weak wage growth
  • The spread of insecure work
  • The rise in the number of working households hasn’t been enough to lift families out of poverty

For more: Child poverty

Going bust

Rising household debt and child poverty is a result of poor pay and a weak economy. The South West map points to the coastal areas such as Torbay, Cornwall, Weston-super-Mare and Weymouth and Portland as suffering the worst. The same areas show high rates of individual insolvency – a desperate response to overwhelming debts. Torbay had the highest rates in 2018 at 46 people out of 10,000 going bankrupt, Plymouth 45 Weymouth and Portland had 40, Cornwall 39 and North Somerset 37. The hardest hit are 25-34-year-olds at 116 for each 10,000 in Torbay and 35-44 year-olds at 93 per 10,000. Women tend to have higher rates than men – Torbay had 51, Weymouth and Portland 44 and Cornwall 41 per 10,000.

Older night workers

There are now 266,000 people regularly working nights in the South West,11.3% of the workforce.  

TUC analysis shows that older workers are powering the national increase with 924,000 night workers aged over 50 – up from 751,000 five years ago. A significant proportion are aged over 60 (222,000) and 65 (69,000). And fewer young workers are doing night shifts.  

The TUC says key factors behind the rise are: 

older employees staying in work for longer;  

more jobs being created in sectors like social care where older workers are more likely to be employed.

As well as being bad for family life, the health risks of regular night work include cardiovascular disease, diabetes and depression. And these risks are heightened for older workers, says the TUC which is urging greater protection for those who regularly work through the night.

For more: Night working numbers

UCU announces eight days of strikes

Universities across the South West will be hit with eight days of strike action from Monday 25 November to Wednesday 4 December.

79% of UCU members who voted, backed strike action in the ballot over changes to pensions. In the ballot on pay, equality, casualisation and workloads, 74% of members polled backed strike action.

As well as eight strike days union members will begin 'action short of a strike' such as working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues and refusing to reschedule lectures lost to strike action.

Universities of Bath Bristol, Exeter are affected by strike action for both disputes and Bournemouth UCU members will strike over pay and conditions only.

More here


Supporting Learners Event

Wednesday 20 November 10.30am-3.30pm

Mercure Exeter Rougemont Hotel, Queen Street, Exeter EX4 3SP

A union learning networking event for union learning reps and unions - engaging, promoting and inspiring learning

  • get updates on workplace learning and TUC work in the South West region
  • hear about new resources and tools for reps from unionlearn
  • share your experience and ideas
  • look at putting new resources like career kickstart, Value My Skills online and the careerzone into action
  • discuss topics like wellbeing, apprenticeships, digital and functional skills
  • National Retraining Scheme session

Please book early to guarantee your place. This event is free to attend for all ULRs, other union representatives and union officers. 



The REAL Black Friday: 23rd December 1892
Sunday 24th November 6.00-8.00pm
Glenside Museum, The Chapel, Glenside Campus, Blackberry Hill, Stapleton, Bristol BS16 1DD
Bristol Radical History group author, researcher and co-founder Roger Ball talks us through the real ‘Black Friday’ - not the shopping spree but the strikes and protests of autumn 1892 in Bristol, starting with the ‘Sweet Girls’ dispute at the Redcliff Confectionery works. Come and listen to a tale of thousands of working class Bristolians marching to the Horsefair with lanterns and song – and find out what happened on the day known as Black Friday. This event will include lanterns and music, including a protest song not sung in public for over a century! Organised by the People’s University of Fishponds.

Price: £3.50

For more details see here

The climate and our community

Tuesday 10 December 9am-1pm

City Hall, College Green, Bristol

An invitation to Bristol’s communities to shape the conversation on climate change and climate change and migration. How will climate change affect us and how does your community feel about this?

This event is co-hosted by the Mayor of Bristol, Bristol Green Capital Partnership, Bristol City Council, Bristol Refugee Rights and Bristol City of Sanctuary.

Reserve your place on Eventbrite The Climate & Our Community


South West Trade Union Courses

Classroom based courses In  January 2020, TUC Education will be offering classroom based courses in your region for newly appointed Health and Safety Reps and Union Learning Reps (ULRs) and the Certificate in Employment Law for more experienced reps who want to develop their knowledge and skills and our 3-day Menopause in the Workplace course.

To find the nearest course to you, please click on the link below:

For further information about any of these courses please contact Alison Foster, trade union education coordinator


Online learning

Two eNotes have been add to the list: