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Tolpuddle

It is the time of year when we in the trade union movement have the opportunity to thank our predecessors for the sacrifices they made in the name of workers rights.

On February 24th 1834, six farm labourers from the Dorset village of Tolpuddle were arrested on a charge of taking part in an ‘illegal oath’ ceremony. In the eyes of their bosses the real offence was that they dared to form a trade union to defend their livelihood. For this they were sentenced to seven years’ transportation to penal colonies in Australia.

This episode is central to our lives as trade unionists and is just as relevant today with the ongoing struggle for workers rights in the UK. The brave actions of the Tolpuddle Martyrs are recognised every year with a festival in their home village. This three day celebration encompasses a variety of activities, with visitors from the UK and around the world coming together to demonstrate how trade unions continue to be vital organisations for the protection of working people.

Speakers at the event include Tony Benn MP, veteran campaigner for workers throughout the world, his son Hilary Benn MP, Minister for Overseas Development and Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary. There will also be entertainment from singer/songwriter Billy Bragg, long-time friend of the trade union movement.

The GMB in the Southern Region would like to see as many people as possible at the festival. Our branch will be organising free travel to Tolpuddle for the main day of the festival on Sunday 18th July 2004. Coaches will be travelling from around the Southern Region and will be open to members and your families. Food and drink will also be provided at the event for all.

This is always a great day out for GMB members and their families as we celebrate our movement at one of its birthplaces. Also, we are usually lucky with the weather and get a sunny day!

This year promises to be the best yet with more people attending than ever before. If you would like to come, please get in touch with me quickly as places go fast (contact details at back of newsletter).

Bring your families for a great day out as we join together in the celebration of our movement and the sacrifices made by Tolpuddle Martyrs.

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