My close friend and mentor Graham Stevenson died on Mayday.
A life-long communist, trade unionist and internationalist, Graham was a leading left intellectual in the TGWU leadership, a great strategist and industrial organiser.
He was for many years National Secretary of the Passenger Services Trade Group and I first met him when I was elected to sit on his National Committee back in 1992. Two years later I was elected onto the T&G Executive Council representing our bus worker membership and worked very closely with Graham for nearly 20 years.
This continued as T&G became UNITE in 2008 until his retirement a little later and my own retirement in 2014. We encouraged a fight back by bus workers after years of devastating wage cuts and attacks on our conditions since privatisation and deregulation in 1986.
We led campaigns to protect bus workers against attacks and fought to change the driving hours legislation under the slogan “Fatigue Kills” We worked to improve the ergonomics of bus cab design to save drivers from back injury and other musculo- skeletal complaints.
We were a team internationally on the European and International Transport Workers Federations (ETF and ITF) where both us had senior roles. Together we made our union’s voice heard on the dangers of privatisation, the need to organise the unorganised and never stop fighting back.
We also had some great times together, plotting the future leadership elections in UNITE over a pint, discussing left politics at home and abroad or simply having a huge laugh, giggling like silly boys over some internal union nonsense.
Graham died on May Day. It seems extraordinary that Graham could choose such a fitting day to end his days, even if it is years too soon. So how about a wonderful rendition of the Internationale to see him off.
Rest in peace Graham Stevenson
Former chair, United Left