Tuesday, 6 November 2012

First Devon & Cornwall Bus Strike - Industrial Action suspended


Bus drivers working for First Devon & Cornwall, who recently voted 85% for strike action,  have received a revised offer from the company, aimed at trying to resolve the current dispute and this is being considered by the RMT's Executive Committee.

Strike action which was scheduled for Thursday 8th November 2012 is now SUSPENDED. This is to allow for a consultation of members to take place. The overtime ban and rest day working ban which was due to commence on Sunday 11th November 2012 to Saturday 17th November 2012 is also suspended.

Solidarity to all our bus driver colleagues in Devon and Cornwall from Bridgwater Trades Union Council.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

"An injury to one is an injury to all!"

Argos is being hit by strikers around the
country including Bridgwater
Yesterday was the first of a four-day strike by hundreds of Unite Bridgwater ARGOS warehouse workers.

The protest strike concerns a vicious attack on workers' pensions, similar to that perpetrated by Uniliver at their factories, including Walls Ice Cream at Gloucester, earlier in the year.

I attended the Unite picket line yesterday on behalf of the Bridgwater Trades Union Council.

Support for the strike, which also includes four other ARGOS distribution depots, was excellent, with very few crossing the twenty-strong picket/members support line.

Wincanton PLC drivers who work at ARGOS have been subject to threatening letters, should they stop their lorries on the picket line let alone refuse to cross. Solidarity is therefore important.

Local trades unionists are welcome at Huntworth-off the M5 slip road-any time during /Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. (The depot closes on Saturdays)

Please try and find time to make that solidarity visit!

If you can't make either the picket line or the store leaflet, you can send an E-mail message of support to me (davechapple@btinternet.com) and I will pass it on.


Thursday, 9 August 2012


Campaigning group Friends of Bridgwater Station have written to Managing Director of First Great Western, Mark Hopwood, asking for an explanation for the sudden reduction in opening hours of the rail station ticket office, and a commitment to a more reliable service in future.
A notice has recently appeared on the station door stating that the ticket office will close at 12.45pm each day: "due to unforeseen circumstances".


This is a net loss of 10.5 hours a week, for a busy station whose current opening hours are inadequate in any case. The ticket office closes officially at 2.30pm each day, and is closed all day Sunday. This is nowhere near enough opening hours to cope with demand, and it is time First Great Western showed more respect for the town of Bridgwater by providing an adequate service at the station.

There is nothing "unforeseen about the fact that FGW don't employ enough staff to provide cover, and have taken too long to fill the full-time vacancy at Bridgwater station, which was advertised months ago.


Friends of Bridgwater Station want a commitment from First Great Western that the vacancy will be filled, that the opening hours will be reviewed and that the staffing situation will be improved, so that future "unforeseen circumstances" do not continue to inconvenience the travelling public, who deserve a better deal from a company which is making vast profits.

Contact details: Glen Burrows 07722 087 675

Monday, 23 July 2012


Dave Chapple-CWU shop steward
The Bridgwater 48-hour wildcat strike ended successfully this morning at 6am, with an overwhelming vote by CWU members to endorse shop steward Dave Chapple's recommendation to return on the following terms:
1. The suspended postman would be returned to work immediately with any disciplinary investigations completed within 48 hours.
2. National talks would begin covering all major industrial relations problems at Bridgwater Delivery Office, including CWU concerns of heavy-handed management, breaking agreements with the CWU, un-agreed cuts in hours, and hospital appointments.
Sunday's talks, involving CWU acting Deputy General Secretary Ray Ellis and national officer Bob Gibson, finally broke through Royal Mail's previously aggressive stance, and paved the way to get the suspended postman back to work without the threat of recriminations against any CWU members for taking part in the walkout.
Dave Wilshire, Bristol CWU Branch Secretary, said:
"Royal Mail can say what it likes but the fact is they would not talk to us about lifting this suspension until the strike went into it's second day: that's a fact.
However, to be positive, It is good to hear from Dave Chapple at Bridgwater Delivery Office that the return to work today is proceeding smoothly without major problems. This is a major Royal Mail turnaround from last Friday, when it looked like we might be out on strike for a week or more.
Our suspended CWU member will return to work today with the threat of serious disciplinary action removed: the other issues members were on strike about should now be addressed.
The tremendous solidarity shown once again by 110 Bridgwater postal workers has, we believe, forced Royal Mail to show some common sense: we hope this approach continues!"

Dave Wilshire,
Branch Secretary
07909 525 740

Friday, 20 July 2012

Lightning Strike at Bridgwater Sorting Office

At 7.30am this morning 100 Royal Mail workers at Bridgwater Delivery Office in Somerset walked out in a lightning protest strike against Royal Mail managers' bullying and breaking agreements with their trade union the CWU.

The postmen and women, many with 30 years service, are angry that a postman with 25 years service has been suspended from duty for an alleged swearing incident, when the other postman concerned has written to Royal Mail asking for the case to be dropped and the postman re-instated.

bullying and harassment

CWU members believe a heavy-handed disciplinary policy, which currently includes Royal Mail posting eight managers to a workplace designed for four, has led to an increased managers' bullying and harassment culture.

Royal Mail are also blatantly breaking agreements with the union on daily staffing levels-called 'lapsing' in Royal Mail, training, and annual leave.

worry and stress

The final issue that must be addressed is Royal Mail changing their policy on staff hospital visits without negotiating this change with the CWU. Previously staff were allowed sufficient paid time off to attend hospital: now they are being forced to go to hospital in their own time which only serves to increase workers' worry and stress.

Dave Wilshire, Bristol and District CWU Branch Secretary, said:

"The overwhelming support for today's walkout at Bridgwater Delivery Office only confirms our belief that there is something radically  wrong with the way this workplace is managed. Whilst this strike is first and foremost a decisive protest against an unfair suspension, the underlying and fundamental issues of breaking national agreements with the CWU and heavy-handed bullying managers must be addressed sooner or later: we would like to resolve this today."  "

For further details contact Dave Wilshire on 07909 525 740 or Dave Chapple, Branch Chair on 0777 6304 276

Thursday, 10 May 2012


Trades union members in the Bridgwater area are invited you to join us at an open meeting of Bridgwater Trades Union Council, for an informal  discussion about local workplaces and trade union issues and organisation in Bridgwater.
The meeting will be on Monday 14th May, at 7.30pm, at the GWRSA Club, Wellington Road, Bridgwater (next to the Railway station) and I hope you will be able to join us.
Bridgwater Trades Union Council brings local trades union branches together, to campaign about issues affecting working people and their families. Apart from regular meetings with our affiliated delegates, we are also keen to talk to local trades union members about their workplaces, and to learn more about the issues important to local workers.

Thursday, 3 May 2012


First stop Castle Street
May Day 2012 saw the first of what could be a new feature on Bridgwater's socialist landscape - an annual  'History Walk to celebrate International Workers day'.

Organised by Bridgwater Trades Union Council, the event attracted  30 people and even the weather brightened up for the evening.

The expedition started from Bridgwater's West Quay where Trades Council President Vicki Nash of the NUT welcomed walkers and led them off into Historic Castle street where Postal Worker Dave Chapple (CWU)  spoke of the campaign to save the former Mary Stanley maternity hospital in 1988 which had resulted a in a minor victory saving a single delivery bed- soon to be upgraded to 2  in the planned Community hospital.

Inside the Bridgwater Arts Centre
Sheep Worrying at The Art's Centre

Stepping inside the Bridgwater Art's Centre, Brian Smedley (UNITE) took to the well trodden stage to tell of the history of Britains first Art Centre -established in 1946 with the aim of making the arts accessible to the community and the battles that were fought in the 1980's to keep that accessibility  in the face of the attacks of those reactionary Tory years. The example he spoke of was the Sheep Worrying organisation, a radical art's project that had originated during the punk rock years of the 1970's with the aim of putting on original plays and music by local writers and performers but had become radicalised in the process as Thatcherism made it's mark. The organisation had recieved a council grant for it's youth work at one point and had it snatched away again by the Tory council the minute it's views challenged the orthodoxy. By the mid 80's Sheep Worrying was producing and performing socialist plays by local authors which told Bridgwater's history from a working class viewpoint.
Taking on the Poll Tax Baillifs
Fighting the Poll Tax

Outside the Magistrates court, Glen Burrows (RMT) spoke of the struggles of the towns people against the introduction of the Poll Tax  in 1990. The Anti Poll Tax Union in Bridgwater had been very strong and well organised with the Magistrates Court acting as the site of many battles against the attempts by the council to enforce the unjust tax. APTU members had acted as 'Mackensie friends' in the court for victims and had also taken part in 'Baillif Watch' events on the estates including a famous incident where the group travelled to Nempnet Thrubwell and occupied the head baillifs house and held a mock auction of his own property!

Slum poverty in the 1920's

The 'Other Courts' at Market Street

In Market street, Dave Chapple spoke about Bridgwater housing in the 1920's using these last surviving examples of the old 'courts' which peppered the working class areas of the town. In particular Dave recalled the struggles of Walter King to bring the  poor housing conditions to the attention of the council. In one example "no fewer than 10 members of one family had to sleep in one miserable room and at the back there were two lavatories that were used by 40 people". Walter King was crucially the voice that won the case for Municipal Socialism over Private Enterprise in Bridgwater and Dave believed that a blue plaque should be put up to him in the town. Following the Housing Act passed by the first Labour Government in 1924 saw Bridgwaters first  Council homes established.

Remembering the Brickyard strike
the night they read the Riot Act

Outside the Bridgwater Town Hall Brian Smedley spoke of the incident in 1896 when the towns brick workers were on strike and the Tory government had responded to the Councils worries with troops on the streets. The strike had been solid consisting of 820 hands newly unionised by the Dock Wharf Riverside and General Labourers union (subsequently TGWU and UNITE). The demands of 6p a day and 1/2 a day less on saturdays weren't even listened to by the bosses. The workers marched around the town with banners. The Police harrassed strikers in return. When the Strikers seized scab brickcarts and took them to the cattle market the mayor (Henry Pollard) called in the entire county Policeforce in an attempt to recover them with the result of barricades on the Penel Orlieu and a battle with strikers which saw the police and council besieged in the town hall. The Gloucestershire regiment, on it;s way to South Africa, was rushed to the town from Plymouth harbour and cleared the streets at bayonet point as the mayor read the riot act with 27 arrests and hundred of injuries. A photo of the troops in their Zulu war uniforms and the county police (a combined occupationforce of 210) still hangs in the Town Halls Charter hall.

In front of the old T&GWU offices
Organising the Farmworkers

In the grounds of st Mary's Church, Barry Leathwood (UNITE) former National secretary of the Agricultural Workers Section pointed to the former T&GWU offices and spoke of his time in the town and county organising workers. He refered to the mass meetings on Ham Hill in South Somerset and the Feudal nature of village and rural political life where whole communities were expected to be solidly blue and of his surprise at his first visit to Dunster when he was greeted by a sole red flag in the middle of the village-which turned out to be the local Labour Party secretary. He also paid tribute to the last Bridgwater T&GWU secretary Tom Searle who , like most T&G or Dockers union leaders, had been a key part to the town's labour movement.

Dockers Hall in the background
Bridgwater's Labour Movement come's together

Outside of the Dockers Hall in Friarn street, Dave Chapple spoke of the development of Trades Unionism and the Labour Party in the town.  He mentioned the Labour Church which met there at the turn of the last century and the coming together of Trades Unions and the Labour Party which had seen the founding of the Trades Council in 1913. The leader of the Dockers, Sid Plummer, also became the first Labour Parliamentary candidate.

The 'Red Borough'
introducing John Turner
Entering the modern Labour Party HQ at Unity House the walkers met Bridgwater's longest serving Councillor John Turner who talked to them about the 'red borough' days . A period when the Labour party took control of the town in the 1950's and clung onto that control making important strides in progressive housing in particular until the Boroughs power was destroyed by the local government reforms of 1973 when Sedgemoor District Council (or 'direct rule from Cheddar') was set up. John was first elected to council in 1960 and recalled the role of Czechoslovakian socialist Fred Phillips in creating and organising such a strong local Labour party. Fred had escaped from Nazi controlled Europe in the 1930's where he had played a key role in the Trade Union led resistance movement and it was our good fortune that he ended up in Bridgwater where he threw all his socialistic organising skills into building the Labour party here. Labour to this day remains the strongest party on the Town Council with 14 of the 16 seats.

Bridgwater and the General Strike

In Blake Gardens to conclude the walk, Dave Chapple spoke of the General Strike and Bridgwater's role in it. A stormy 13 days in May 1926 had showed the potential power of the Trade Union Movement around the country as workers came out in support of the Coalminers. Bridgwater was part of that great struggle with the railworkers at the forefront. Workers faced victimisation and hardship as a result.

The socialistic wander ended up in the Fountain inn where toasts to May Days past and future were raised. Another walk is planned for next year.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012


"So now what do we do with it??"
At last weeks meeting of Bridgwater Town Council the 19th century banner of the Bridgwater Independent Equitable Druids was accepted by members as a gift to the people of the town from the Bridgwater Labour Party and £500 was voted to investigate immediate works to repair it with a view to putting in on public display. 
Today, CONSTANZE ZIMMER a textile conservator from 'Textile Conservation Studios' (Ashley parade ,Bristol) visited the Town hall to assess the banner. Also present was Cllr Brian Smedley (Labour Group secretary & Town councillor) , Dr Peter Cattermole (Blake Museum curator), Alan Hurford (town clerk) and Cllr John Turner (leader of town council).

"Nice bit of silk that.."

Constanze, who was very impressed by the banner, but said that it was in less than excellent condition, will write a full report within the week.

Cllr Brian Smedley said "There has  been no definite decision made by the town council yet on where to display the banner. It was originally proposed to hang it in the members room/council chamber-to remind members as to why we were elected in the first place.There was some concern that this would be problematic due to the light from the windows - however Constanze said this could be over come by..er...'closing the curtains'...but she also suggested  a form of anti UV covering for the nearest window."

"More damage from 2 legged creatures than 4 legged ones..."

Another issue facing the Council was how to display it so that both sides were viewable. Cllr Smedley said "The basic proposal was to attach it to its original poles and lean it against the wall and should people wish to see both sides to manually move it-otherwise the aim would be to have it as a backdrop to meetings and public events in the room. However, it was also considered that it may in the future be a feature of a restored Bridgwater Room (the former council chamber which is currently un-used and somewhat dilapidated with remnants of false ceilings). The group visited this room and concurred. However, although the Town Council has now assumed ownership of the entire building from the District Council, there are no immediate plans for restoration of this room.."

Constanze has suggested that the banner  should be taken as soon as possible to their studio in Bristol where work could commence on it mid June.

"Right, back in it's box then!"
Cllr Smedley added "The total funding required could be in the region of £10,000 for restoration and display-which we would seek by establishing a Friends of the Banner group and bidding for grant aid and public subscription."

The Town Council's current position is
1. To keep the banner in safe storage for the immediate future
2. To await the report by Constanze before any further action
3. At that stage a decision should be taken which might have extra consequences regarding funding.
4. This could then include the establishment of a 'Friends of the Banner' group to investigate further funding suggested  by the report and also to consider extra future costs such as display.
5. Should the above be achieved we could then take the banner to Bristol by mid June.

At which point Councillor Smedley hoovered up the frass and put the banner back in it's box to await developments.

Thursday, 19 April 2012


To celebrate International Workers' Day on Tuesday 1st May, Bridgwater Trades Council has arranged a guided walk through scenes from Bridgwater's radical past. Walkers will meet at the Fountain Inn, West Quay, at 6.30pm, and the pace will be leisurely!

Starting at Bridgwater Arts Centre, and calling at the Magistrates Court, Market Street, Town Hall, Dockers' Hall, Unity House, and a host of other locations, local historians Brian Smedley and Dave Chapple will describe Bridgwater's rich and rebellious past along the way. Commentary includes the Brickyard Strike of 1896, the General Strike of 1926, housing conditions in the 1920s, and the Poll Tax protests in the 1990s.

The walk will finish at 9pm at the Fountain Inn, and all are welcome.

For further details phone 01278 450562

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Bridgwater Druids Friendly Society silk banner rescued from oblivion!

Those of you who are interested in Bridgwater's history may be interested in these photos of the wonderful silk banner of the Bridgwater Independent Druids' Friendly Society-made by George Tutill in East London in about 1890-which has been rescued from a local loft and is now in the care of Bridgwater Town Council at the Town Hall with a real chance it can be displayed for local people to see, if some basic conservation work can be completed.

 Friendly Societies-still existing today-were in some ways the 18th and 19th century precursors of trade unions and looked after working-class people with sick out of work and funeral benefits.

Thursday, 8 March 2012


Bridgwater Posties on strike
CWU members at Bridgwater Sorting Office held an unofficial and spontaneous walk-out on Thursday 8th March, to show their anger over the sacking of a colleague.

The three and a half hour walk-out was successful. Management have agreed to bring the sacked man's appeal process forward, which increases his chances of reinstatement. There will be no victimisation of any of the workers who took industrial action, and a ballot will be held for official industrial action if their colleague is not re-instated.

Bridgwater Trades Union Council congratulates Bridgwater postal workers for their compassion and solidarity  - an inspiration to all workers.

Friday, 2 March 2012


Anti nuclear protesters outside the court in Taunton
Hot on the heels of Sedgemoor District Councils  tussle with Energy giants EDF, when they delayed setting the Council Tax  due to the failure to come to an agreement with the company over 'Community Benefit' payments for the proposed construction of  a new power station at Hinkley point, the French Multinational are now in trouble over their heavy handed treatment of anti-nuclear protesters near the site.

After over 24 hours in custody Theo Simon of Shepton Mallet, and David Jesse of Taunton, appeared before Taunton Deane Magistrates court. Officials were stunned by the packed courtroom as well-wishers and supporters packed into the room to follow the proceedings, one official commented that “this was the most people we've ever seen here”.

Peaceful protest

Magistrates, after taking into consideration the time they'd spent in custody decided to release the defendants with just a conditional discharge, and no fines or court costs as they accepted that the defendants were men of good character and that they had been engaged in a legitimate peaceful protest for the last two and a half weeks.

Night time eviction

The defendent's solicitor told the protestors outside the court that the police hadn't favoured a night time eviction, but despite this EDF pulled the eviction time forward from the scheduled 7:30am to just before daybreak, said Shana Deal “ EDF are trying their hardest to keep local opposition from becoming visible not content with stitching up the legal processes they want to silence protest too. We are pleased that twice this week the courts of our land have upheld and respected our right to voice dissent at EDFs plans.”Defendant Theo Simon commented on his release “This was just one battle in the fight against new nuclear we'll be back on March the 10th & 11th with Stop New Nuclear to surround and blockade Hinkley Point, we're not going anywhere until EDF and the government get the message that nuclear power is not clean not safe and not necessary”.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012



Unions organising in the community

Join us for a PUBLIC MEETING on

GWRSA Club, Wellington Road, TA6 5AH
 (next to Rail station)

The  McNulty Review of British railways, represents the biggest threat to railways, passengers and rail workers since privatisation

·         Bridgwater is among the ticket offices recommended for closure.

·         We need to organise NOW if we are to defend this vital part of our local public transport service.

Chair:         Vicki Nash (NUT)
Speakers:  Glen Burrows (Trades Council)
Brendan Kelly (RMT, Regional Organiser)
Bill Monteith (TSSA, National TOC Cttee Chair)

Further details: ring Dave Chapple on 01278 450562



Delegates’ meetings are held monthly, but every third month is a Trade Union Forum meeting, to which we invite local reps and activists, as well as members of the public.

Meetings are held in the GWRSA Staff Club, Wellington Road, Bridgwater, starting at 7pm

Mon 12th March: Trade Union Forum:
“Save Our Railways”

Mon 16th April:  Trade Union Council

Mon 14th May:  Trade Union Council

Mon 11th June: Trade Union Forum

Mon 9th July: Trade Union Council

Mon 13th August: Trade Union Council

Mon 10th Sept: Trade Union Forum

Mon 8th Oct: Trade Union Council

Mon 12th Nov: Trade Union Council

Mon 10th Dec: Trade Union Forum

Tuesday, 7 February 2012


Bridgwater Trades Union Council is calling for a local action group to be set up to defend Bridgwater Rail Station ticket office from threatened closure, following publication by the Department of Transport of the tender documents for the new Greater Western Franchise.

These documents make it clear that the new franchise, to be put out for tendering in in 2013 ,will include closure of ticket offices recommended in the McNulty Review, currently being considered by Parliament. Bridgwater is one of the 29 ticket offices listed for closure.
“This threat to jobs and passenger services is being carried out before the review has even been through the parliamentary process and received parliamentary approval”, said Secretary Dave Chapple at the Council’s February meeting. “It is a mockery of our democratic system.”
A public meeting has been called for Monday March 12th, to discuss this, and other threats to railway services posed by the McNulty Review.

The meeting will be at the GWRSA Club, Wellington Road, Bridgwater, and starts at 7pm.

For further details: contact G Burrows on 01278 450562/ glenburrows@btinternet.com

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

“The Government’ austerity programme isn’t working”

Nigel Costley SW TUC
“The Government’ austerity programme isn’t working”, said South West TUC Secretary Nigel Costley, addressing the January meeting of Bridgwater & District Trades Union Council. 
“Every pound they slash from our services should be matched by a similar reduction in the national debt. This isn’t happening. In reality, by increasing unemployment and deprivation, the Government is making our economic situation worse.”

Unemployment continues to rise – among young people unemployment has now passed the million mark  - and this is causing enormous damage to our communities. In the south-west, former areas of rural inequality and deprivation are re-emerging.

In Bridgwater, wages fell last year by 3.3% on average, while inflation rose to 5%. Meanwhile wages for top executives rose nationally by 49%!

But people are beginning to get angry about the obvious injustice of the “austerity” programme. They know now that we are not “all in it together””.

Well-organised trades unions are more vital than ever to defend the wages and living standards of working class people – whether in the public, private or retired sector. Trades unions must also educate, support and organise young and unemployed people.”

Bridgwater Secretary Dave Chapple called on all local trades union activists and representatives to support the work of the trades union council, by attending meetings, building unity and solidarity among local workers, and helping with local campaigns.

Next meeting: Monday 12th March, 7pm, GWRSA Staff Club, Wellington Road, Bridgwater. This will be an open Forum, to discuss the threatened cuts to rail services in the area.

Further information about the work of Bridgwater & District Trades Union Council can be obtained from http://bridgwatertuc.blogspot.com , or by contacting Dave Chapple on 01278 450562/ 07776 304 276