Tributes to a giant of the union movement

Rodney Bickerstaffe, who has died at the age of 72.
Rodney Bickerstaffe, who has died at the age of 72.

Tributes have been paid to a legendary union leader who fought for fair wages and workers’ rights over many years.

Rodney Bickerstaffe, the general secretary of the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) and its successor Unison, has died aged 72.

Mr Bickerstaffe campaigned for a basic minimum wage for all workers and championed the cause of striking miners during the year-long dispute of 1984-5.

He also served as president of the National Pensioners Convention. As head of Unison he was based at Blackgates House in Tingley for many years.

Former colleague Paul Dainton, of Alftots, said: “Rodney will be sorely missed by a great many people in Wakefield and throughout the UK. He will be remembered for his sense of humour and his caring passion for the working classes and retired pensioners.

“Our time spent working together in NUPE and Unison, whilst taxing to say the least, was also a pleasure of unity and strength.”

Current Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Everyone involved in our union will share in the grief felt at Rodney’s passing. 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.”