UK guides to trade union history go on "strike"

Fri Apr 9, 2010 10:02am EDT
 
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By Valle Aviles Pinedo

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - British tour guides who introduce visitors to the tale of the 19th century farmworkers who inspired the trade union movement have gone on "strike."

The Blue Badge guides who conduct tours of the court where six laborers who formed the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers to protest farm wage cuts were tried in 1834, convicted and sent to Australia said the pay on offer for taking tourists around the site are too low.

Tour guide Alistair Chisholm said he found the situation "ironic" given the similarity of the dispute the guides have with the local council in the southern English county of Dorset and that of George Loveless and the other 19th century farm laborers, known as the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

"George Loveless and his comrades were found guilty at their trial and were sentenced to seven years transportation for their attempt to ensure a fair day's wage for a fair day's work," Chisholm told Reuters in an emailed statement.

West Dorset District Council said in a statement emailed to Reuters that it already spends a "reasonable" amount subsidizing the Tolpuddle memorial and that it raised the fee paid to the guides, who are not full-time council employees.

West Dorset District Council Community Enabling Manager Nick Thornley said the guides work in two hour sessions on summer afternoons. Last year they were paid 26.65 pounds ($40.75) plus traveling expenses for this and conducted three building tours.

"At the request of some of the guides, we have increased this fee to 30 pounds for this summer and reduced the number of tours required to two," he said. "This represents an increase in pay of almost 13 percent."

The nine guides say the current rate of pay is below the market rate for Blue Badge guides, members of Britain's Guild of Registered Tourist Guides.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)