Rodney Bickerstaffe, ex-Unison general secretary, dies

Rodney Bickerstaffe Image copyright PA

Rodney Bickerstaffe, the former general secretary of Unison has died aged 72, the trade union has said.

Mr Bickerstaffe, who led the public sector union NUPE before it became Unison, was also a former president of the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

He also served as president of the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) for four years, from 2001.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described him as a "warm, decent and principled" man and said he was a "great friend".

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis added that Mr Bickerstaffe, who led Unison from 1996 to 2001, was "the very best of us" and a "true giant of our movement".

'Comrade and leader'

Mr Corbyn, who worked with Mr Bickerstaffe at NUPE in the 1970s, paid tribute to his "pal", saying: "Rodney always provided guidance to me as an MP".

Mr Bickerstaffe "stood steadfast for Labour principles" including championing the minimum wage, challenging austerity and campaigning for pensioners' justice and travellers' rights, Mr Corbyn added.

Mr Prentis said Mr Bickerstaffe was a "dedicated champion of all the union members he proudly represented throughout his career".

"Rodney was at his best when he was fighting for the causes he believed in, and our movement has today lost one of the greatest campaigners and orators of his generation," he said.

"He was a friend, a comrade and a leader, and thanks to his work the lives of countless people have been changed for the better.

"Rodney was the very best of us, a true giant of our movement and we will all miss him greatly," he added.‏

A number of political commentators have paid tribute to Mr Bickerstaffe on social media, including associate editor of the Daily Mirror Kevin Maguire and ITN newsreader Alastair Stewart.

Jan Shortt, general secretary of NPC, said Mr Bickerstaffe had been "a passionate advocate for Britain's older people" while at the union.

"He was extremely funny and filled the room with his enthusiasm for life," she said.

"He was one of the labour movement's greats and the NPC is proud to have had the benefit of his skills, intellect and humour."

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