Wednesday, 30 November 2011


"This is not just a campaign to defend public sector pensions. It is a campaign for all pensions: state, private and public sector. It is saying to the Government loud and clear  We will not pay for a crisis caused by bankers' greed and speculation. Hands off our pensions! Hands off our NHS! Hands off our schools! Hands off our Welfare State!" . And with these words Glen Burrows RMT  launched the Somerset March for Pension Justice on it's way from Taunton Cattle Market through the town centre to a rally outside County Hall.
The majority of Schools   across the county were closed , workplaces picketed and many Unions were on strike for the first time ever.
2,000 people took to the streets of Taunton to un precedented levels of support from the public.
Leading the demonstration was the UNISON union of Public sector workers , whose general secretary Dave Prentiss said  "Today you made history. Every single UNISON member supporting the day of action has played their part in this fantastic day. UNISON members - mostly women, many low-paid and many taking strike action for the first time ever - stood up and said, with quiet resolve: enough is enough.

Our members work every day of every year to provide the services our communities rely on. Many work behind the scenes in schools, hospitals, town halls, libraries and a thousand other workplaces unseen by the media and politicians.

But today they made their presence felt and their voices heard throughout the UK.They told politicians that they would not stand by and see their pensions attacked and undermined and they would not be made to pay for the crisis caused by speculators and bankers.

A historic day indeed. A day which must make the government think again and negotiate a fair deal on pensions for our members. "

Prominent amongst the Unions taking part locally was UNITE whose general secretary Len McCluskey said: ”The fight to protect public service pensions is the latest battle that working people and their families have had to mount to protect the social and economic advances that have been achieved since 1945. But now working people are being asked to pay for the economic mess caused by the greedy City elite whose behaviour this spineless government has repeatedly failed to tackle.

”When Francis Maude, the government’s lead pensions’ negotiator, can receive a pension of £43,000-a-year, but nurses, teachers, dinner ladies, fire-fighters and librarians have to pay substantially more, work longer and receive less in real terms when they retire, the mantra of  ‘We are all in this together’ has a very hollow and shabby ring."

 Also in the thick of the fight were the Teachers unions - not just the NUT but the NASUWT as well. Christine Blower General Secretary of the  NUT, the largest teachers union, said: "Today is  an overwhelming rejection of the Government's intention to irreparably damage teachers' pensions. The profession is very clearly united in its defence of pensions, which we believe are fair and affordable. We are pleased that discussions are ongoing with the education department and we are pressing hard for further concessions, but the current offer does not go far enough. "

 PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "Every single person on strike today should be proud of themselves and the millionaires in the government should be ashamed of themselves. They said this day would never happen but this is the best day for the trade union movement in generations. The strikers are an inspiration. The message to the government is if you don't negotiate with us we will do this again. They should go into work tomorrow with their heads held high.”

Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary said "This dispute was staretd by the coalition government in the expectation that those who work for us all in our public services could be bullied into accepting their diktat. The government lack the moral courage to now settle this dispute for fear of upsetting their right wing backbenchers and those on the lunatic fringe who attack workers rights"   ,

Sunday, 20 November 2011


Wednesday 30th November will see strikers, supporters and families
demonstrating outside public buildings and at rallies all over the South West.
The joint action against government attacks on pensions involves 20 public
sector unions and is supported by the TUC.
The government wants to make people pay more and work longer for lower
Despite unions’ attempts to have proper negotiations, ministers have refused
seriously to negotiate over their changes to public sector pensions.

The issue is simple: most public sector workers are modestly paid.
Their pay has
been frozen while the price of basic goods is shooting up.

Now they are expected to pay an extra £3 billion a year for much worse
by a government that cancelled the tax on bankers’ bonus tax that would have raised almost the same. What clearer illustration of a government by the rich,for the rich?

Bridgwater TUC says "Stand up for decent pensions and tell ministers to start
negotiating. Support the picket lines, vigils, marches and demonstrations on
November 30th."

It’s wrong to make public sector workers pay for an economic disaster they did
nothing to cause. This is everyone’s fight: private and public sector workers,
retired people and workers must unite to fight for decent pensions for all.
Bridgwater Trades Union Council will be giving out information about Pensions Justice in Bridgwater Town Centre, from 11-1, Saturday 26th November

Somerset marchers assemble on November 30th, at 12 noon ,at the Old Cattle Market, Taunton, to march to County Hall for a Rally at 1.30pm

Monday, 22 August 2011


Over a hundred Bridgwater people, many of them residents of streets surrounding Bridgwater’s iconic Brewery Field, sat down to a summer picnic on Sunday in a community celebration of one of Bridgwater’s last ‘green lungs.’

Joining them were several families of teddy bears, bicycles, tents, deck chairs, dogs, kites, flags, rugs, a wind-up gramophone playing dance-band 78’s, and, of course, well-filled picnic hampers!

Under threat by Sedgemoor District Council’s sell-off to Tesco, the Brewery field links Bridgwater’s historic docks to the town centre. For a hundred years or more, it has been, literally, a playing field for footballers, dog walkers, strollers and kite flyers.

The entire Brewery Field should remain a green and public open space for Bridgwater people to continue to enjoy for another hundred years!

So Sunday was a celebration: but also another episode of a continued and determined protest led by Bridgwater Forward that will carry on until Sedgemoor revoke their intention to dispose of this priceless asset, an asset they should be holding in trust for all of Bridgwater’s citizens.”

Dave Chapple,
Bridgwater Forward

Tuesday, 12 July 2011


George Goodenough GMB delegate to Bridgwater Trades Council writes;-

   Sunday 10th of July saw a joint initiative by Bridgwater Trades Council, Bridgwater Forward and Bridgwater Senior Citizens Forum to protest against Somerset County Council’s decision to close the Saltlands recycling centre in Chilton Trinity on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and on Sunday afternoons. In addition they have imposed charges for accepting certain items for recycling such as gas bottles, car tyres and soil. These charges have been a particular source of outrage in the local community.

    At 10 am I joined amongst others Dave Chapple of the CWU, Vicki Nash of the NUT and Councillor Leigh Redman of the FBU on the banks of the River Parrett opposite the gates of the recycling centre. The Bridgwater Mercury was due to cover the event and requested that we find examples of rubbish fly tipped in the local area. I kept my eyes open as I walked to the venue and as well as the usual drinks cans and bottles I was able to pick up a car number plate from out of a bush and a broken suitcase lying in the street. However the copse next to the centre proved to be a fertile source of fly tipped items and we were able to come up with a car tyre, a couple of bicycle tyres, a telly, a tarpaulin and some soggy underlay – all presumably dumped by would be users of the facility exasperated at finding it closed when they wished to use it. Perhaps our piece de resistance was a sofa dumped in the lay-by opposite the sewage farm.

   Our protest consisted of a publicity leaflet which we handed out to the users of the centre as they arrived. We were delighted to receive almost universal support. Only two or three drivers refused to speak to us and I received one challenge from a chap who thought the closures were necessary and the charges fair given the current financial climate and he expressed the view that once the economy had recovered that the former status quo would be reinstated. Something I find very hard to believe as I feel it more likely that the Council will unilaterally declare the charges a success and extend it to all items. However even he agreed that the dramatic increase in fly tipping since the cut backs was undesirable.

   The Bridgwater Mercury’s Andy Slocombe arrived for a photo session shortly before 11 a.m. Our attempts to be photographed with our collection of rubbish at the gates was thwarted by the site supervisor who was anxious about the image of the centre but after some negotiation by Dave Chapple we were able to get the photographs on the other side of the road using the site entrance as background. After the session we dutifully set about recycling the rubbish that we had recovered only to be told that we would have to pay for the tyre! Dave used it as means of having a discussion with the Viridor workers who run the site but I don’t think our treasurer was too impressed to receive a receipt for £4.20 for one rimmed car tyre the recycling thereof.

   Dave’s inquiry into the effects of the cut backs on the Viridor work force was enlightening. Over the course of the last couple of years they have seen their hours cut from 60 a week to 40. Effectively they have lost a third of their income and perhaps more distressing still is the fact that they now have to work every weekend to make up their 40 hours. Not good for those with children. It seems that whilst they have a Unite union rep at the Taunton depot not many of the workforce are in a union. Whilst they recognised that we were their to support them they were largely sceptical about whether we could achieve anything and were nervous about speaking to us for fear of reprisals by management.

   Whilst the support for us was nearly universal there were a couple of incidents that really need to be reported to show the level of outrage that the community feels over the situation. I recognised one fellow with whom I used to play rugby and who served in the Marines with my brother. Having tried to sneak past us at first I managed to get his attention and explained the situation. He pointed out that the closures didn’t affect him as he always recycles on a Sunday morning and nobody had yet asked him for money. I didn’t note his departure but was surprised to see him return a bit later and when I mildly enquired ‘Hello, back again?’ he replied ‘Yes, I had to go and get some *%$8ing money!’ I think we can safely say we gained a convert to our cause.

    One man stopped and spoke to us as he left and he still had his load of hardcore in his trailer. Apparently they wanted £14 to accept it as recycling and he simply wasn’t going to pay. We didn’t ask how he now planned to get rid of it. Another driver told us that he had been told he would have to pay to recycle tiles but simply dumped them and drove off saying they could see him in court before he would pay. Yet more people stopped and requested additional leaflets to distribute. It seems that the public are incensed by the County Council’s policy on recycling but their protests are falling on deaf ears.

    At 1pm the site closed but Dave and I hung on for 10 minutes and predictably two would be customers turned up only to be disappointed to find the site closed. It goes without saying that they gratefully accepted a leaflet and pledged support. All in all it was a very enjoyable three hours in the warm July weather and given the level of support we received from the public I think we may count it a success.

Saturday, 25 June 2011


Bridgwater Trades Union congratulates members of civil service and teaching unions on their strong vote for strike action on 30th June in defence of pensions which are under attack from the  Con-Dem government. College and university lecturers, as well as teachers in private schools will join in the action on the day.

The strike will involve around 800,000 workers, and is the start of a rolling campaign. Unison, with its 1.4 million members, will join the struggle to defend public-sector pensions in the autumn.

The Con-Dems want to divide workers on the issue of pensions. They say public-sector workers should not have better pensions than private-sector ones, when we all know that private sector pensions are either non-existent or on a downward slide, as funds are robbed and final pensions devalued. Workers must not let themselves be divided in this way, but, instead, fight for decent pensions for all workers, and that means defending public sector pensions.

The real division in Britain is between the millionaires – many of them currently on the government benches - and the rest of us.  A victory on pensions would give everyone the confidence to fight the rest of the government’s cuts, and its attempt to return working people in Britain to the conditions suffered in the 1930s.

Everyone opposed to the cuts must support the pensions strike on 30 June. Come and support the NUT, ATL, UCU and PCS at the Rally on 30th June, at Taunton Rugby Club, starting at 10.30am. Free car parking. 


Monday, 2 May 2011


The Unity Club was the appropriate setting for this year's May Day commemorations for Bridgwater Trades Unionists, Labour Party members, Socialists and Community activists with 6 varied speakers bringing messages of solidarity  through their own experiences ranging from workplace struggles to the imminent Local Government elections.

The high point of the event was a presentation by Trades Council Secretary Dave Chapple about Labour activist Fred Phillips who built up a  socialist labour presence in the town that changed the face of Bridgwater politics in the 1950's and 60s.

The event was chaired by Labour Councillor Brian Smedley, a member of the UNITE union, a Trades Council delegate and a Labour candidate for the new town centre Bridgwater Westover ward.  
"Workers Struggles"
Glen Burrows RMT

Glen Burrows, a member of the RMT union and the Senior citizens forum opened the evening and mentioned the history of May Day events going back to the workers struggles in America at the end of the 19th century and stressed the Internationalist nature of workers struggle.

"Student Fightback"

Rob Thompson -student activist

Rob Thompson, a student from Taunton, spoke about the disastrous policies of the Conservative-LibDem coalition on working class communities and especially the young, who were, as a consequence now at the forefront of the fightback against them. He had personally spoken at 3 Somerset MayDay rallies over the May weekend.

"United Front"

George Goodenough, a GMB member who worked at Hinkley point, talked about his fears for the Environment and how he had become involved in  the Socialist Party .He  stressed the need for a United Front against the ConDem Government.

George Goodenough GMB & Dave Chapple

"Local politics"

Ian Tucker-Bridgwater Forward
 Ian Tucker is standing for the Labour Party in the Town & District Elections and talked about how he had become involved in politics during the times of Thatcher who had dessimated the merchant fleet in which he worked at the time. His involvement in the seafarers union 'Nautilus' turned him into a Labour supporter and he became personally involved in local politics with a passion when the Sedgemoor Tories closed down the Sedgemoor Splash. He had joined the campaign group Bridgwater Forward and the Labour Party at the same time and was a regular speaker at Council meetings.

"Union Activist"

Leigh Redman FBU
Leigh Redman is standing for Labour at the elections alongside Ian and talked of his work in the Fire Service and how his own involvement deepened through his hands on dealings with management and thereby his increased work as a Union Activist with the FBU.

"Ideological Tory war"

Ricky Hopkins UNITE
 Ricky Hopkins was standing for Labour in the key marginal seat of Highbridge, and fighting hard to win it from the divided and hopeless LibDems who the people wanted rid of. Ricky was 22 years in the National Union of Mineworkers including 20 years at the coalface. He spoke passionately about the actual affects of Thatchers destruction of mining communities and how Cameron and his LibDem stooges were doing the same today to communities with the closing of libraries and youth facilities which he saw as the continuation of an ideological Tory war against the working class and the welfare state. He emphasised the fightback had to be led by the Labour party and the Trade Unions working in Unity.

"Municipal Socialism"

Dave Chapple, a socialist historian and postman, talked about the work of one special individual in building up the Bridgwater Labour party after the second world war and taking it to a position of control in the borough bringing about some of the main achievements in the town until the abolition of the Borough in 1974.

Fred Phllips was from the Carpathian region of the former Czechoslovakia and was a socialist and anti fascist activist who escaped to England from a Nazi concentration camp and eventually found himself in Bridgwater where he became the Labour party agent. Fred's work and dedication created a large membership based Labour party in the town with a strong presence on the Town council of active Trades Unionists who eventually took control from the Tories and Independents. The Bridgwater Labour Party of Fred Phillips from 1952 to 1974 was a fine example of municipal socialism in action and had been responsible for such achievements as the Lido and the West street Housing project which the Tories (led by Margaret Rees) had tried to scupper.. 

Dave Chapple & Brian Smedley

"the Red Borough"

It was the case that Bridgwater was known as 'the red borough' around the south west and at one point when virtually the rest of the region went Tory, only Bridgwater remained true to it's socialist roots. Nye Bevan, the famous socialist instrumental in setting up the National Health Service, had opened Bridgwater's 1,000th Council House, at Adscombe avenue on the  Sydenham Estate  . Hugh Dalton had been received in the towns Charter Hall to present an award to Fred's wife Elizabeth for recruiting 2,000 Labour party members during a single year.

"2,000 members"

Freds hard work had even built up the party in rural locations where Labour supporters- largely farm workers -were afraid to put up Labour posters for fear of eviction. Dave explained how Fred travelled by motorised bike far and wide in his work and mentioned one single incident where he cycled to Withycombe and recruited 86 villagers in one evening! Dave also spoke of Fred's second in command, Don Beard, who was a CND activist and whose enthusiasm for the Labour Party included social outings including the popular 'Weymouth Excursions' which by 1958 numbered some 8 coaches. at a period when Labour Party membership never dropped below 2,000 and affiliated Trade Union membership running at some 3,000..

"50% turnouts"

Fred Phillips & Harold Wilson
 It was also the case at the time that the perpetual danger of apathy was being conquered as turnouts at elections had gone up from 30% to 50% as people had the feeling at last they had something worth voting for.

"Tory dominated Sedgemoor"

The Bridgwater Borough Council was abolished in the local government reforms of 1974 and the town was thereafter cast into a minor role within the new Tory dominated Sedgemoor District Council. In 2000 the Labour Government restored Bridgwater Town Council which labour has controlled for the ensuing years. The town council is up for election on Thursday as well and a lesson from the hard work of Fred Phillips showing what could be achieved is a timely reminder.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Celebrate International Workers Day in Bridgwater this Sunday

Bridgwater Trades Union Council this Sunday May 1st
is hosting an International Workers Day celebration to which all are warmly invited.

Running from 7pm till midnight at the Unity Club, 5 Dampiet St, (Next to the Library)  the event combines history, politics and music:


7pm: "Fred Phillips and the Red Borough of Bridgwater" a talk by local historian Dave Chapple, on how a progressive socialist borough council was established at Bridgwater by the local Labour Party between the years of 1952 and 1974 under the leadership of a remarkable figure-the refugee and anti-Nazi revolutionary Fred Phillips.

8pm: "Fighting the Tories and their cuts locally and Nationally": a political discussion with a panel of local speakers including students, trades unionists and Labour candidates.

Leigh Redman (FBU/Bridgwater TUC)
putting the case for Labour

                                           Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour/ UNITE)
Leigh Redman (Labour/FBU)
Ian Tucker (Labour/Bridgwater Forward)
Glen Burrows (RMT/Senior Citizens Forum)
George Goodenough (GMB)
Rob Thompson (Students against the Cuts)
 Ricky Hopkins (Labour/UNITE)

9pm to midnight: Music with Red Shadow Sound System, playing cracking black dance music from the '50's to the 80's: soul, reggae, ska, blues, funk and jazz.

The event is free and we hope you will join us!.

Dave Chapple,
Bridgwater Trades Union Council,

Tel. 01278 450562

Sunday, 27 March 2011


The massive demonstration yesterday expressed the anger and outrage people from all ages and all walks of life feel about the millionaire-based ConDem government's attacks on the poor, on public services and on  the welfare state. I marched with pensioners, students, housewives, trades unionists, Women's Institute members,  and every shade of political opinion, and it was clear that some of the police, too, were on our side.
There was also a feeling of confidence that the power of people's protest can alter the disastrous course of the government's economic policy. It's a great feeling when you take over the centre of the capital: no cars, and masses of people united in goodwill and a desire to protest and survive.
It was outrageous, therefore, to hear Brendan Barber and Ed Milliband diluting the purpose and message of the demonstration, speaking from the rally platform in Hyde Park. Both were saying, not that the cuts are wrong, malicious and will ill-judged, but that they are too sudden and too hard! This has not been the message of the Anti-cuts groups so far, nor of the TUC in the run-up to the demonstration. It's an important difference, which completely undermines the message of the campaign against cuts: which is that the cuts are unnecessary, the national deficit does not need to be dealt with in this way, and that the government's measures will make matters worse.

Personally, I don't expect anything better of Milliband and Barber, but they must not be allowed to derail the focus and purpose of the fight against cuts in this way.  Trades unions and anti-cuts organisations, as well as Labour Party members, need to get the campaign back on track by clarifying this principle and sticking to their metaphorical guns.

Glen Burrows

Friday, 4 February 2011


Bill Byrd and Vivian Willis  carrying the banner of Yeovil & District Trades Union Council are pictured here with singer Billy Bragg and Bridgwater student Laura Costello on the 500 strong student protest march through Taunton today.  . The bright red  trade union banner  was much appreciated by the students.  The event was reported at lunch-time on BBC Points West and  ITV's The West Country Tonight.

March Organiser Robert Thompson was interviewed on the BBC. He will be speaking at Yeovil TUC's May Day anti-cuts event on 29th April at Unity Hall. Ken Keable from Yeovil TUC said  " It's important to bring the trade union movement and the students together and to let the students see that are being supported by the trade union movement. The next thing is to get students to the TUC national anti-cuts march in London on 26th March."

Brian  Smedley from Bridgwater Trades Council said " The 3 students who spoke all attacked the Lib Dems and their broken promises. James Leeman physically tore up a speech by Nick  Clegg promising to vote against Tuition fees. Billy Bragg made it abundantly clear that the Tory agenda is nothing short of the destruction of the entire Welfare state   and it's completely clear now that the LibDems are their stooges in this. Workers and Students  now need to march together, campaign together and step up the pressure on the Con Dem  Coalition Nationally and locally."