Monday, April 14, 2008

Greg Tucker

GREG TUCKER, who died in St.Thomas Hospital on Saturday, April 6, aged just 54 , was a lifelong socialist and fighter for the working class, who will be sadly and sorely missed. Though he had been ill for over a year with throat cancer, he carried on participating in the Rail , Maritime and Transport(RMT) union of which he was so proud almost to the end. Tributes have come from many people who knew Greg in the fields where he was active.

Greg was on the RMT's national executive in the late 1990s, and remained secretary of Waterloo branch until stepping down a few weeks before he had to go into hospital. Here is the president of the RMT, Bob Crow:

"RMT is a close-knit family and I know that members the length and breadth of Britain will mourn the untimely loss of Greg, and our heartfelt condolences go out to his partner Joan," RMT general secretary Bob Crow said today.

"Through three decades working on the platform, as a guard and as a driver, Greg organised tirelessly for the industrial union he was fiercely loyal to, representing members at every level.

"Greg fought against privatisation, and his leadership while a member of the union's executive helped to win a decisive battle against the introduction of driver-only operation on South West Trains.

"When SWT tried to get their revenge by firing him he was exonerated at an industrial tribunal which found that he was the victim of 'a concerted manoeuvre involving several influential members of the Respondents' management'.

"Greg was a fighter to the last, and managed to attend a special branch meeting with his closest colleagues and friends at Waterloo only last Thursday.

"Greg was unable to attend the train-crew and shunters' grades' conference a week ago, but delegates expressed their deepest and most sincere thanks for his commitment and gave him an emotional standing ovation," Bob Crow said.

for some other tributes, see:

I first met Greg Tucker in the 1980s, when I was elected to Lambeth Trades Union Council of which he was lynchpin. I remember him as a principled and thoughtful member, a good left-winger who knew his own industry, but understood it in the broader political context of the whole working class.

Greg joined his partner Joan Twelves on Lambeth borough council, which from the days of 'Red ' Ted Knight defying the Thtatcher government was seldom out of the gunsights of the Tory press.
The left-wing councillors came under fire for resisting adoption of the Tory poll tax, and for opposing the Gulf war. The Sun was particularly irate, claiming council workers were not being allowed to fly the Union Jack. (The Murdoch press is always concerned for workers' rights as we know, and will do anything to raise support for "our boys" in the armed forces - anything except willingly pay taxes in the UK). When there was a probe into suspected corruption in Lambeth council the papers even tried to drag Greg Tucker's name into that - when in actual fact he was in the clear and it was him who had initiated the probe.

Still the Labour Party responded to the media hunt by suspending 13 Lambeth councillors, and Greg was one, though he kept his seat for a few more years, before being expelled from Labour, and turning to concentrate on union work. Not that this stopped Greg's activity in the political field, in opposing privatisation and looking for an alternative to Blair's New Labour. In 2001 he stood as Socialist Alliance candidate in Streatham, against Labour's Keith Hill, a former RMT political officer turned Transport Secretary, and gained a respectable 900 or so votes.

Soon after this he was summoned in to see the bosses at work, in an attempted victimisation which he successfully defeated, with the tribunal officers praising Greg's honesty in contrast to his employers.

In recent years I was sorry to part company politically with Greg Tucker and others, insofar as the International Socialist Group of which he was a prized member decided to ditch the Socialist Alliance and stake its hopes and efforts on what is now George Galloway's Respect-Renewal. But though we may have temporarily chosen different paths, no one could doubt Greg Tucker's
commitment to socialism and the working class.

And to confirm this shared opinion, here is left-wing Labour MP John McDonnell:

Greg Tucker was a superb example of selfless dedication to the causes of socialism and trade unionism. I have known Greg for nearly 30 years from the days he was a rank and file activist campaigning in support of the Labour Left on the GLC, through the ratecapping campaign and the miners strike and onto his excellent work representing the RMT. Greg was one of those comrades who was always there if you needed support no matter how difficult the issue and whatever flack we were coming under. He embodied the best of our movement, a thinking, extremely well read, and determined socialist. Because he was such an effective representative of RMT members he was an automatic target for management victimisation but he stood up courageously to everything thrown at him. Greg would not allow anything to stand in the way of serving his members and our movement. The real heroes and heroines of our movement are those that quietly without thought of reward devote their lives to our cause. Greg was one of those heroes whom I am immensely proud to have known.

Details of Greg Tucker's funeral, which will take place at 12.30 on Wednesday, 16 April at West Norwood Crematorium and Cemetery, London SE27 9JU, and a celebration of his life to be held at the Bread and Roses pub, 68 Clapham Manor Street, London SW4 6DZ, from 13:30 can be found at

Flowers are welcome at the funeral, and donations in Greg's memory can be made to the RMT Orphan Fund, c/o 39 Chalton Street, London NW1 1JD

Finally, here is Greg Tucker himself, in an extract from an article he wrote on a major issue he took up, safety on the rails:

Given the level of responsibility that drivers have, moving hundreds of passengers at high speeds, you would have hoped that the effects of these schemes would have faced critical examination by the powers that be.

There is no evidence that this every truly happened. Railtrack, at that time responsible for rail safety, and the Railway Inspectorate (rail department of the Health and Safety Executive) rubberstamped the companies' proposals. If risk assessments were made by the operating companies – and even that is doubtful – they glossed over the effects of radically altering shift patterns. ASLEF, with the majority of drivers, was too deeply complicit in the process to face up to the effects on their members of the deals they were signing. It was left to RMT members, like Sarah, and a handful of ASLEF activists, such as Laurie, to fight to expose the problems drivers faced.

(Sarah Friday was an RMT health and safety rep who was victimised, Laurie Holden was an ASLEF representative).

On which note, I will soon be writing something on International Workers Memorial Day, which comes up on April 28. With the slogan 'Remember the Dead, Fight for the Living', there will be a march in London starting 10.30 am, Maitland Street, next to the Tate Modern, and proceeding via the Health and Safety Executive to a rally at City Hall.

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