Issue date
08 Feb 2018
A round-up of union news from across the South West

West Country Workers



12-18 February

The opportunity to show the value of trade unions and make the case for priority campaigns will take place in February. The TUC shall be supporting the Bakers’ Union campaign for an independent voice for workers inside MacDonalds. Trades Union Councils are helping to organise the hand-out of leaflets. The week will help make the case for a new deal for working people including proper funding of public services, decent pay rises for all and assistance to particular union campaigns.

Help workers at McDonald’s get a fair deal

The TUC is backing the Bakers’ Union campaign for a fair deal for workers at one of the biggest employers in the world, McDonalds. Leaflets will be handed out at a number of stores including:

Saturday 17 February

12 noon stall in Lemon Quay, Truro

12.30pm Weston-super-Mare town centre

UCU Pensions Dispute

USS is the collective pensions scheme for pre-92 universities. In the South West Exeter, Bristol and Bath are three of the 61 affected across the country.

UUK, the representative body to the USS pension scheme, have announced intentions to move from a defined benefits pension scheme to a defined contributions scheme. UCU has been in negotiations with UUK for over a year but has made no progress in overturning this. It means in essence that the current scheme which collectivises pension risk and pays a final pension linked to salary will be replaced by one which throws the risk onto the individual and makes the final salary dependent on the stock market. It has been calculated that the proposed changes will result in a loss of value of the pension of at least 20% with some estimates predicting 60% and more.  Currently though, the scheme is fantastically successful with around £60bn of assets. It has a positive cash flow and so brings in every year more than it pays out.  This situation is expected to continue for at least the next 30 years (or as far as can be predicted). But closing off new payments into this scheme will very rapidly move it to the situation where it will be in a negative cash flow and this could happen within 5 or 6 years.

More information here:

These changes represent the biggest attack on UCU’s members that has ever been mounted and require the biggest ever response.

In a ballot to take industrial action UCU members smashed though the Trade Union Bill requirement for a 50% turnout. More than 58% (a record) voted and there was record vote in favour of action, with 88% voting for strike action and 93% for action short of a strike. We are asking for support from all UCU members and fellow trade unionists.

In response to this ballot UCU will be holding fourteen days of escalating action Thursday 22 February, Friday 23 February, Monday 26 February, Tuesday 27 February,  Wednesday 28 February,  Monday 5 March, Tuesday 6 March, Wednesday 7 March, Thursday 8 March, Monday 12 March, Tuesday 13 March, Wednesday 14 March, Thursday 15 March, Friday 16 March

University of Bath

University of Bath UCU Branch will be picketing the three entrances to the campus (North Road, Bathwick Hill pedestrian entrance, and The Avenue from 07:00am to 13:00pm on 22 and 23 February as well as the Virgil Building (the old police station) in the city centre. Messages of support and requests for information can be sent to [email protected] . We will be delighted to meet anyone on our picket lines. Bring a banner from your union branch if you have one, but most of all bring yourself.

Please send messages of support to [email protected]

We welcome contributions to our hardship fund. Please contact Michael Carley for details. [email protected]

University of Bristol

Main Contacts - Tracey Hooper and James Thompson, email [email protected]

Prior to the action, Bristol Branch are holding an evening event, co-hosted by Bristol Student Labour Party called 'Why is my lecturer on strike?' on Tuesday 20th Feb at 6pm. Lecture Theatre 3, Woodland Road Complex, BS8 1TB.

Thursday, 22nd February
08:00: Picket lines staffed Senate House  (Tyndall Avenue, BS8 1TH).
10:30: Rally, Rally, Senate House  (Tyndall Avenue, BS8 1TH). We suggest anyone who would like to join us and show support should head to this location either for rally/march or picket.
11:00-11:30: March to Wills Memorial Building (Queens Road, BS8 1RJ)
11:30-12:00: Rally, Wills Memorial Building
12:00-: Teach-Outs will be held at Woodlands Church, Belgrave Road, Bristol, BS8 2AA. Topics include the history of the trade union movement, and the anniversary of 1968 protests.

Monday, 26th February:
08:00: Picket lines staffed (Tyndall Avenue, BS8 1TH)
10:30: Rally, Senate House (Tyndall Avenue, BS8 1TH)
13:30: Wills Memorial Building (Queens Road, BS8 1RJ
14:00: Senate begins
14:00-14:30: Rally, Wills Memorial Building (Queens Road, BS8 1RJ)

We welcome contributions to our hardship fund. Please contact Tracey Hooper for details.

Please send messages of support to President, Tracey Hooper

University of Exeter

Main Contact – Barrie Cooper email [email protected]

Pickets Thursday 22 February, Friday 23 February

Streatham (both entrances); meet at the corner of Prince of Wales Road and Stocker Road (EX4 4PU)
St Luke’s Campus (EX1 2LU)
Barrack Road (EX2 5DW)

Thurs 22nd: All members out and on picket lines at all campuses 7:30-11:30 followed by a march to a rallying point
Fri 23rd: All members out and on picket lines at all campuses 7:30-11:30 followed by social
Mon 26th & Tues 27th: Members strike, but no specific pickets/events planned
Weds 28th: Members strike.  Afternoon - teach-out/public lectures.

We welcome contributions to our hardship fund. Please contact Barrie Cooper [email protected] for details.

Please send messages of support to Barrie Cooper.

Nick Varney UCU Regional official

26b Clifton Hill, Exeter EX1 2DJ

Telephone 01392 412525 Mobile 07966 255594 Email [email protected]

Communicating online

Tuesday 27 February

Mecure Rougemont Hotel, Exeter

Communication skills sessions for trade unionists to help use social media, blogs and video clips can help get your message across. Learn about reaching people by social media - knowing your audience and finding your tone of voice - blog writing skills, getting your message across on video, tips and techniques for social media and online conversation, and more.

If you’ve recently started blogging or using social media or already have experience and are looking to further improve your skills, come along to one of these workshops with Riz Hussain, TUC Social Media Officer and Niamh Ni Mhaoileoin, TUC Digital Content Editor.

There’ll be practical tips and activities and opportunities to share experiences with other union reps too.

Register here for Exeter

Health and Safety training

A new Stage One course for new Health and Safety Reps will start in Bristol on 2 May and run for ten Wednesday until 11 June.

Register here

Employment Law course

Starting on 3 May in Bristol for ten Thursdays until 12 July.

Register here


Dorset driver dies after being fined for day-off to see doctor

Don Lane, a DPD courier from Christchurch, collapsed and died from diabetes. His widow told the Guardian how he missed key medical appointments in fear of being fined by the company. Drivers in his situation as seen as self-employed contractors and therefore liable to be charged by the company if it has to arrange for a replacement.

Nigel Costley South West TUC Regional Secretary, said: “This is an appalling result of insecure employment and it is time the Government took action to protect people.”

See more here

Cornish gangmaster closed down

A Cornish gangmaster who systematically exploited her workers through skimming off their pay, sending them to work double shifts with insufficient breaks and charging them to live in unhygienic and unsafe caravans has been shut down by the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority.

GLAA Press release


Fight the break-up of the NHS

Unions are fighting plans to establish so-called NHS subsidiary companies (subcos) across the South West. NHS Trusts say they can claim back VAT using subcos but when staff are transferred into an NHS subsidiary company, they are no longer part of nationally-agreed terms and conditions (Agenda for Change). This means Trusts can change employee contracts to be less favourable.

One team in the NHS – UNISON campaign

Somerset Inseminators bite the dust

One of the smallest unions registered with the Certification Officer but not part of the TUC has been taken off the list. The Association of Somerset Inseminators had about five members but is now no more.



Rebellious Sounds

The Rebellious Sounds Archive will collect women’s contemporary stories of activism in the South West.  A mobile listening booth built like a voting booth will tour museums and locations to gather and share contemporary stories of women’s activism, whilst also looking back 100 years to discover local stories and connections to the women’s suffrage campaign.  Supported by Heritage Lottery Fund.

More details here


We are the Lions, Mr Manager!

We Are The Lions, Mr. Manager! is the story of the Grunwick Strike of 1976-78 and the inspirational strike-leader Jayaben Desai who led a group of workers in the backstreet London factory. Their stand kick-started one of the longest and most important industrial disputes.

16 February 7.45pm

Dorchester Arts Centre, The Corn Exchange, High Street East, Dorchester DT1 1HF

Box Office: 01305 266926 / Website

17 February

Bridport Arts Centre, 9 South Street, Bridport DT6 3NR 
Box Office: 01308 424 204 / Website

21 February 7.30pm

Blackwood Miners High St, Blackwood NP12 1AA 
Box Office: 01495 227206 / Website

22 February 8pm

The Plough Arts Centre 9-11 Fore Street, Great Torrington EX38 8HQ 
Box Office: 01805 624624 / Website Tickets

23 February 7.30pm

Halstock Village Hall, Leigh Lane, Yeovil BA22 9SH 
Box Office: 01305 269512 / Website Tickets

6 April 7.30pm

St Michael’s Church Hall, 160a Gloucester Road, Bishopston, BS7 8NT 
Box Office: [email protected]Website


Trades Councils Annual Conference

Saturday 3 March 10.30am-3.30pm

Railway Club, Bridgwater TA6 5HA

The annual meeting of South West Trades Union Council delegates will hear individual case studies about their journey to trade union activism, reports on TUC priorities and current campaigns.

For more information: [email protected]

Thomas Helliker Day

Thursday 22 March 12.30

Trowbridge Church

The annual commemoration of Thomas Helliker, the shearman apprentice hanged in 1803 as retribution for a successful strike around the Wiltshire town. Wreath’s will be laid at his tomb.

International Brigade Conference to come to Bristol

Saturday 24 March

Colston Hall, Bristol

The annual International Brigade Memorial Trust, Len Crome Memorial Conference will be held in Bristol next year. Its theme will be Aid Spain: the mobilisation of support for the anti-fascist cause among the British people during the Spanish Civil War. Speakers will include historians Professor Tom Buchanan and Dr Emily Mason. There will also be live music from Amanda Boyd & David Nash, Ewan McLennan and the Red Notes Choir, plus film, exhibition and stalls.
Entrance: £20 (£15 students).

More information here Booking here

South West TUC Annual Conference

20-21 April

Croyde Bay

The annual gathering of trade union delegates.

For more information contact [email protected]


Open for stalls and volunteers

Applications for stall holders and volunteers for the 2018 Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival 20-22 July can now be made on the Tolpuddle Martyrs website.


Captain Ska
Captain Ska

Captain Ska to come to Tolpuddle

In early news of the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival line-up it is announced that the fantastic CAPTAIN SKA will perform on the Saturday evening – 21st July. Captain Ska are releasing their new Christmas single Sons and Daughters, in collaboration with The People's Assembly. All proceeds in the run up to Christmas will be split between the People's Assembly and Food Banks Nationwide - directly helping those suffering most at the hands of the Tories and helping sustain a campaign for the alternative to austerity. 

Check out this video with interviews from the band