Cry of the Poor

Pamphlet "Cry of the Poor"

Reviewed by Keith Evans for Bristol Trades Union Council

Cry of the Poor “being a Letter from Sixteen Working Men of Bristol to the Sixteen Aldermen of the City”

First published by
W. And F. Morgan, Bristol, 1871.

This 2021 edition is published by Bristol Radical History Group with an afterword by Trish Mensah, Ian Wright and Barbara Segal. ISBN: 978-1-911522-61-4

Available from:
Bristol Radical History Group

The reprinted letter in the pamphlet and the commentary by the Bristol Radical History group forms a concise and easily accessible case history on the topic of municipal social reform. A line from the final paragraph of “Final Thoughts” by group members Trish Mensah, Barbara Segal and Ian Wright offers a central conclusion, or lesson, to be drawn. “The current situation in Bristol, as elsewhere, is a salutary reminder that even when improvements in workers’ quality of life have been won, they can’t be taken be taken for granted.”

At the time of the letter itself there were generally sixteen aldermen in the council who wielded considerable power and were overwhelmingly Conservatives. The sixteen working mens’ letter sets out six demands that the writers considered necessary to alleviate the poor living conditions of the labouring classes in Bristol – clean air, free public parks, swimming pools, no tolls for using bridges, public libraries and a fish market. The last demand actually encompassing better facilities for obtaining food generally.

The letter is carefully crafted. Underlying its six demands are found unfavourable comparisons such as Bristol lagging behind other cities of lesser antiquity in implementing reforming acts of parliament, as in the plea for purer air “ There is an act for the Consumption of Smoke made by factories: we call upon you to enforce it without respect to persons, this is done effectually in London and elsewhere – let it be done in Bristol”. (The acts granting powers for welfare and social reform are detailed in the Radical History Groups Afterword.) Again, under parks, the letter refers to the parks existing in towns in the north “ most of which were mere villages when Bristol was a famous sea port”

In its final paragraphs the letter is more forthright in its complaints, particularly around the inequality in benefits from contributions to rates and taxes of the city. Whether there were exactly sixteen workmen to match the number of aldermen or not, we find in the complaints a comparison of the lives of each class. “you can … do much to lessen and to remedy the evils under which we labour … we should no longer grudge you your beautiful houses … or grumble so much at having to pay such a large part of the £300,000 you are spending to bring your big ships up the river …”, the last point being a reference to the typically Bristolian saga of the debate on “dockisation” of the Avon, still very much raging and concerning ratepayers and councillors in 1871.

The history group’s writers, in describing the effects of the letter, report the length of time it took to acheive the desired gains, writing “However, apart from a brief period in the 1870s, working class militancy , with its more organised threat to middle class privilege , did not emerge until the late 1880s “ and in the pamphlet’s Afterword they refer to the increasing trades union membership between the early 1850s and 1874.

Bristol Trades Council was established in 1873. Research for my dissertation Social Reform and Welfare Issues in Bristol Municipal Elections 1885 -1914 found Frank Sheppard, the prominent Socialist and Labour councillor, rueing “what could be achieved if the electorate was to show the same interest in the local elections as it did in general elections”. For Labour the factor which swung the [municipal] votes to that party was industrial unrest. A struggle with employers, whether successful or unsuccessful, brought together assemblies of trade union members and enabled the trade union leaders and Labour candidates (sometimes the same people) to use the platform to get across to the workers the political message that representation on the city council could affect pay and conditions across the district. After the city’s extension, which took in wards in the working class east , the establishment of a solid electoral base was enabled in which the interests of the classes who had need for improvement in their conditions were likely to be advanced as issues in municipal elections.

The Cry of the Poor is a valuable text; concise, informative and timely in its lesson around the unsatisfactory situation around health and welfare which exists 150 years after original calls were made on behalf of the working class. As the Radical History Group writers say “This account has shown that progressive change requires both time and persistence.”

Reviewed by Keith Evans : UNITE Retired Members Branch delegate to Bristol Trades Union Council.

Strike action at University of Bristol

The University of Bristol will be hit with three days of strike action from Wednesday 1st December 2021 to Friday 3rd December 2021 organised by the University and College Union (UCU). Full details of the strike and background to the Pension and pay dispute can be found here.

The UCU members are demanding that their employers take decisive, meaningful, national action to close gender, close gender, ethnicity, and disability pay gaps and reduce workloads and casual employment of lecturers, researchers, librarians, and student support staff and revoking the retirement-altering deep cuts to their pension scheme the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS).

The UCU members will also be taking action short of a strike, starting with working to contract, from 1st December 2021.

DO ALL YOU CAN TO SUPPORT. Turn up on picket lines, send messages of support and contribute to the fighting fund. We’ve heard that the Bristol Unite GPM&IT branch has donated £200, can other branches in the Bristol and South Gloucestershire area match that?

The UCU will be picketing from 08:30 on Wednesday 1st December 2021. School and Department picket locations and details as regards the Thursday and Friday strike days are available from the UCU.

Supported by Bristol
Trades Union Council

Unless explicitly stated otherwise any commercial advertisements appearing on this page aren’t endorsed or supported by Bristol Trades Union Council.

The NHS Bill and “Integrated Care Systems”: Why we should be worried

Tuesday 21st September 2021
7:15pm

Bristol Protect Our NHS are hosting a Zoom meeting
for a briefing and discussion on the Health and Care Bill (aka the NHS Bill). Guest speaker

Caroline Bedale

Who is a retired NHS worker and UNISON activist, and active in
Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) and in the Socialist Health Association.

Unless we act, next April the NHS as we know it will be abolished. It will be replaced by more than 40 local boards which will eventually be controlled by the private sector – including US health corporations – with little democratic accountability or local authority influence.

For NHS staff the new Bill promotes more flexible working, professional deregulation, and more localised pay, terms and conditions…. But the Bill once enacted will mean more patients being forced to go private as public health services face further decline and increasing pressures.

This is an online event via Zoom. The meeting room will be open from 7:00pm.
Click below to register

NHS Bill and “Integrated Care Systems”: Why we should be worried meeting

Unless explicitly stated otherwise any commercial advertisements appearing on this page aren’t endorsed or supported by Bristol Trades Union Council.

Key Workers’ Summit – Thursday 22 July

ARE YOU IN INSECURE WORK?

  • Are you a Key Worker who was heralded last year with claps and praised in speeches?
  • Are you now facing low pay, few rights, insecure hours – or even redundancy?
  • Come and join the Key Workers’ Summit in the South West!

This is the fourth online meeting organised by trades union councils across the South West. It’s a chance for Key Workers to share the issues they face at work and ways to tackle them.
All Key Workers welcome – from health, care, retail, education, hospitality and food production.

Join us to start organising across workplaces and fight back!

Key Workers’ Summit
Thursday 22 July at 7.00 on Zoom


Register in advance for this meeting: Key Workers’ Summit


For further information contact
bristoltradesunioncouncil@gmail.com or glosstrikes@gmail.com

Download the leaflet for the Key Workers’ summit

Supported by Bristol

Unless explicitly stated otherwise any commercial advertisements appearing on this page aren’t endorsed or supported by Bristol Trades Union Council.

NHS Workers Say NO

 

Protest for NHS Patient Safety, Pay Justice and an End to Privatisation

Bristol NHS Workers Say No!

Saturday 3rd July  2021
11am meet at College Green
march to Castle Park

Join Bristol NHS Workers Say No and Protect Our NHS on the 73rd Birthday of the NHS to fight for the future of our National Health Service. We demand an end to privatisation and proper investment in the future of the service and the essential staff that keep it running.

Show the government that after 10 years of austerity and a global pandemic we need a restorative 15% payrise and to protect the NHS from privatisation.

More details can be found here Protest for NHS Patient Safety, Pay Justice and an End to Privatisation

This event will observe social distancing guidelines, and ask that all those that can wear a face covering.

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Bristol Trades Union Council urges all trade unionists to support.

Unless explicitly stated otherwise any commercial advertisements appearing on this page aren’t endorsed or supported by Bristol Trades Union Council.

Save Sheikh Jarrah! – Free Palestine!

Save_Sheikh_Jarrah

This Saturday 15th May 2021 Bristol will be showing it’s solidarity with the people of Palestine as they face the latest attack from the Israeli state and its backers.

A demonstration will start at 2pm from Castle Park, Bristol. Marching to College Green for a gathering of speeches.

For more details follow this link Palestine Solidarity Demo – Save Sheikh Jarrah

Please bring PPE, water, and remember to social distance as much as possible.

Bristol Trades Union Council urges all trade unionists to support.Trades_Union_Councils_logo_RGBw95h96

Unless explicitly stated otherwise any commercial advertisements appearing on this page aren’t endorsed or supported by Bristol Trades Union Council.

15% PAY RISE FOR ALL NHS WORKERS

15% pay rise for all NHS Workers
Protect the NHS from the next reforms
Day of action organised by

Bristol NHS Workers Say No!

at Millenium Square, Bristol
on Sat. 15th May 2021, 13:00 to 16:00

Show the government that after 10 years of austerity and a global pandemic we need a restorative 15% payrise and to protect the NHS from privatisation.

A day of music and speakers to stand up for the future of our NHS.

This event will be socially distanced, with mandatory face coverings.

Trades_Union_Councils_logo_RGBw192h194More details can be found here NHS Workers Say No to 1% Demonstration

Bristol Trades Union Council urges all trade unionists to support.

Unless explicitly stated otherwise any commercial advertisements appearing on this page aren’t endorsed or supported by Bristol Trades Union Council.

Bristol International Workers Memorial Day April 28th 2021 – Report

IWMD 2021

Health and Safety is a fundamental workers’ right


IN MEMORY OF
BRIAN, RAY, MIKE + LUKE
FROM YOUR COLLEAGUES AT
GMB WESSEX BRANCH
FOREVER IN OUR THOUGHTS

Click on the first photo for the timeline

South West TUC Facebook page recording the event – SWTUC at Bristol IWMD 2021 includes a Zoom video of the Bristol and Plymouth events.

South West GMB Facebook page recording the event – GMB at Bristol IWMD 2021

South West Unite Facebook page recording the event – Unite at Bristol IWMD 2021

 

 

Unless explicitly stated otherwise any commercial advertisements appearing on this page aren’t endorsed or supported by Bristol Trades Union Council.

Bristol International Workers Memorial Day April 28th 2021

IWMD 2021
Health and Safety is a fundamental workers’ right
Assemble at Tony Benn House
Victoria Street, Bristol
Wed. 28th April 2021, 11:15
March to Castle Park for
wreath laying ceremony

Speaking

Chris Marsh (GMB Rep Wessex Water)
Suzy Cheeke (Vice-President Bristol TUC)
Stuart Davies (Legal Officer UNITE)
Shona Jemphrey
(UNISON member, Labour Candidate for Lawrence Hill and member of NCG of Momentum)

A leaflet advertising the march & wreath laying can be found here – Workers Memorial Day 2021

Every year more people are killed at work than in wars. Most don’t die of mystery ailments, or in tragic “accidents”. They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn’t that important a priority. International Workers’ Memorial Day (IWMD) commemorates those workers.

We remember those who have lost their lives at work, or from work-related injury and diseases. We renew our efforts to organise collectively to prevent more deaths, injuries and disease as a result of work.

Workers Memorial Day is commemorated throughout the world and is officially recognised by the UK Government. We remember those we have lost. We fight in their memory.

In the South West during 2019/2020 13 workers lost their life’s due to industrial accidents.  It’s still fresh in our thoughts of those 4 workers killed in an explosion at the Avonmouth water treatment plant (December 2020).


The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed an occupational health crisis in workplaces worldwide. Workers are routinely denied even basic health and safety protections, including consultation with safety reps and safety committees on ‘Covid-safe’ policies and practices, free access to personal protective equipment and protection from victimisation for raising health and safety concerns. These same problems existed before the pandemic and resulted in millions of deaths each year from work-related injuries and diseases.

The pandemic demonstrates why health and safety must be a right for everyone who works. Illness anywhere threatens illness everywhere. Unions secured agreement at the International Labour Conference in 2019 that occupational health and safety should be recognised as an International Labour Organisation (ILO) fundamental right at work – the decent, universally accepted and binding rights protecting all workers, everywhere. The ILO Centenary Declaration accepts “safe and healthy working conditions are fundamental to decent work”.

On 28 April 2021, unions can send a message that health and safety protection at work must be recognised as a right for all. Whether it is Covid or occupational cancers, or workplace injuries and industrial diseases, every worker should have a right to a voice and a right to protection. No-one should have to die to make a living.

It’s still too early to know whether we will lawfully be able to attend the memorial events which usually take place on IWMD. Whatever happens trade union members will be taking part, respecting legal requirements, in this collective day of remembrance and solidarity.

Wherever you are at 12:00 on Wenesday 28th April 2021, take part in the minute’s silence. It will be a moment to pay tribute to the sacrifice made by so many workers during the pandemic, to remember those who’ve sadly lost their lives, and to thank all those who continue to do vital work at great risk. The initiative is supported by the government, and reps may wish to request employers to mark it, by asking the workforce to cease work for one minute at 12:00. Help spread the word about the minute’s silence, by encouraging as many friends and colleagues as possible to take part, whether in their workplace or at home.

Other events will be organised by Bristol Trades Union Council, Bristol Unison, Bristol FBU and South West TUC. Add a comment here to tell us about your Bristol and South Glos. event.

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