Former General Secretary Rodney Bickerstaffe Has Passed Away

Sadly, Rodney Bickerstaffe – former General Secretary of both UNISON and NUPE – died today, Tuesday 3 October 2017.

Rodney, or Bick as he was known to many, was a great personal friend to many of us and a dedicated champion of all the union members he proudly represented throughout his career. He coupled a great sense of humour and love of laughter with a deep-rooted sense of social justice and commitment to UNISON.

Our thoughts are with Rodney’s family, especially his wife Pat who was an ever present support to him in all his work and was the love of his life.

At the time of Rodney’s death it is worth reflecting on his response during the Winter of Discontent to the question “what about the dignity of the dead?”, Rodney replied ‘“what about the dignity of the living?’ We at UNISON hold this truth close – and we will continue Rodney’s fight to ensure dignity for our members, our families and all in our communities.

When asked what he believed his greatest achievements were, he would respond: the National Minimum Wage and the creation of UNISON. I’m sure many of us recall the powerful speeches and advocacy he provided to deliver these goals. 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.

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.

A private family funeral will be held for Rodney, and his family have requested no flowers but for any donations to be made to either Marie Curie or the International Brigade Memorial Trust.

Please send any cards or letters to Jasmin Johnson, UNISON Centre, 130 Euston Rd, Kings Cross, London NW1 2AY (

UNISON will organise a memorial event for Rodney at which we can celebrate his life, humour and comradeship.

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

Donations to commemorate Rodney can be made to two charities he held particularly dear:
Marie Curie, which provides care and support through terminal illness, at;
The International Brigade Memorial Trust at

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