‘I’m the new Tolpud­dle martyr – and the TUC evicted me’

Scottish Daily Mail - - Life - By Claire Duf­fin

THE case of the Tolpud­dle Mar­tyrs de­tails the fight for a fair deal by or­di­nary work­ing peo­ple – a mile­stone in the birth of the mod­ern trades union move­ment.

But in an ironic twist, a group of cot­tages built in mem­ory of the farm labour­ers is at the cen­tre of a row which ap­pears to go against all their ideals.

It in­volves a 67-year-old widow who says she will be made home­less af­ter be­ing evicted from one of the cot­tages – her home since 1989 – by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

Janet Pick­er­ing was war­den of the cot­tages and the as­so­ci­ated li­brary and mu­seum, as was her late hus­band be­fore her.

The care­taker job in­volved living in one of the cot­tages on site.

Mrs Pick­er­ing claims she and her hus­band were told they could re­main living there, rent free, af­ter they re­tired, as part of their re­mu­ner­a­tion pack­age.

But in 2013, when she told her man­agers she wanted to re­tire, the TUC, which owns the me­mo­rial, ‘ re- wrote the rules’, she claims, and told her to pay rent – which she could not af­ford to do.

A two-year legal battle en­sued, in which Mrs Pick­er­ing spent £6,000 on so­lic­i­tors’ fees. It ended this month when she agreed to move out, say­ing she was too ex­hausted to con­tinue fight­ing. ‘I

‘All my faith in unions has gone’

have been a mem­ber of the union for years, they have hung me out to dry,’ said Mrs Pick­er­ing.

‘Ev­ery bit of faith I have ever had in unions and the TUC has gone. I can­not be­lieve how they have treated me – they are such hyp­ocrites it is un­be­liev­able. I never thought the day would come when I would say that.’

She added that her hus­band – who worked at the then Trans­port and Gen­eral Work­ers’ Union – would be ‘turn­ing in his grave’ if he knew what was go­ing on.

The six cot­tages, named af­ter the six Tolpud­dle Mar­tyrs, were built by the TUC in 1934 to com­mem­o­rate their fight. Iron­i­cally, they were built to house agri­cul­tural work­ers who faced evic­tion from their tied cot­tages when they re­tired.

Mrs Pick­er­ing said she did not know where she was go­ing to live when she moves out next month. Friends and fam­ily mem­bers have of­fered to store fur­ni­ture and be­long­ings un­til she can find some­where per­ma­nent.

A TUC spokesman said: ‘ Mrs Pick­er­ing was of­fered a low-cost ten­ancy in the cottage af­ter her re­tire­ment, which would be con­sid­er­ably be­low a mar­ket rent.

‘She has no legal claim for her be­lief that she is en­ti­tled to re­main in the cottage rent-free for life, with all her bills paid by the TUC.’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.