TOUR GUIDES striking over pay at the site of the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ trial have received union backing.

Unite has come out in support of Blue Badge tour guides at Dorchester’s Old Crown Court, who are protesting at their daily rate of just £26 a day.

The union, which embraces the 500-strong Association of Professional Tour Guides (APTG), has acknowledged the irony of the dispute taking place at the site where the six labourers who inspired the trade union movement 176 years ago were tried.

Andrew Murray, Unite regional officer for the APTG, said: “It is ironic that the guides are experts in the Tolpuddle Martyrs – agricultural labourers who were transported to Australia in 1834 after protesting against continuos wage cuts.

“Nothing much seems to have changed in West Dorset in the last 176 years in relation to a fair day’s work.”

The striking guides are demanding a daily rate of £50 from West Dorset District Council, still well below the industry rate of £75 a day.

Unite/APTG joint chair Tony McDonnell said: “In London we have fought many such battles and we still have to remind people that, although we all love our job, it is a profession not a hobby.

“Guides deserve fair pay for their job, particularly after all the work that goes into qualifying for the Blue Badge – the highest level achievable for tourist guiding. We fully support our Dorset colleagues.”

Dorchester Guide Alistair Chisholm said he and his colleagues had received messages of support from fellow guides across the country.

He said: “I am delighted we have their support because I have no doubt at all that we are right in taking action. What we are demanding is very modest and I am very surprised at West Dorset District Council that for a very small amount of money but a very important principle they are allowing this to become and issue.”

Mr Chisholm said that by promoting the Old Crown Court and Cells more and raising the admission fee the council could easily bring in enough funds to both pay the guides what they are asking and make a profit.

Last month a row broke out between guides after one of them, Christine McGee continued to work as a tour guide at the court despite her colleagues’ industrial action.

Mr Chisholm insisted that the determination to stand their ground was still strong among the 11 other guides who are refusing to work.