Page last updated at 09:09 GMT, Wednesday, 22 April 2009 10:09 UK

Tributes to union stalwart Jones

Jack Jones
Jack Jones headed one of the most powerful trade unions in the country

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has led tributes to former Transport and General Workers' Union chief Jack Jones, who has died at the age of 96.

Liverpool-born Mr Jones was TGWU general secretary from 1969 to 1978, when it was one of the country's most powerful unions.

He died in a care home in Peckham, south London, on Tuesday evening.

Mr Brown described Mr Jones as "truly a leader of working people" who had fought for justice throughout his life.

"Jack Jones was always there to help people in need," the prime minister said, recalling that Mr Jones fought in the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s and campaigned for pensioners' rights until his death.

"All of us who were personal friends of Jack will miss his advice, his courage and his inspiration. My thoughts are with his family."

Veteran Labour politician Tony Benn described Mr Jones as "one of the finest men" he ever met.


"I feel a real sense of personal bereavement," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Everything he said, he believed. He was bitterly attacked [but] if he was powerful it was only because he represented people."

Mr Jones had served as a Liverpool city councillor between 1936 and 1939.

He became a TGWU organiser in Coventry and worked his way up through the union to become general secretary.

He was on the Labour Party's policy-forming National Executive Committee from 1964 to 1967.

After his retirement in 1978, Mr Jones turned down a peerage and instead channelled his energies into a new role as president of the National Pensioners Convention.

'Easily approached'

Former Labour leader, Lord Kinnock, described Mr Jones as a "normal man" who used his life to help others.

Pity we don't seem to have the likes of him representing the working classes today
William Clarke, Bournemouth

"No airs and graces, easily approached, he was strong and he used his strength for its best possible use - that's to help people who either permanently, because of disadvantage, or temporarily, because of illness or age or youth, weren't strong.

"That's what he thought the privilege of strength was."

Tony Woodley, joint leader of Unite, formed through a merger which included the TGWU, said the union "dipped its banner in memory of the greatest among us".

"For thousands of us still active in the movement, Jack was a friend and a mentor, always ready to offer wise counsel when it was sought, right down to the last months of his life," he said.

Jack Jones during the Spanish Civil War
Mr Jones was injured while fighting in the Spanish Civil War

"Always sharp in his understanding of our problems, modest in his lifestyle, uninterested in any honour beyond serving the movement, he embodied everything a trade unionist should be."

Former leader of the Unison union, Rodney Bickerstaffe, who succeeded Mr Jones as president of the National Pensioners Convention, described Mr Jones as a "champion of the underdog".

"He never forgot that he was born into poverty and worked hard to improve not only his own situation, but that of the people around him," he said.

"In Spain he is still honoured for the role he played during the civil war and pensioners who travel free on a bus have him to thank."

Former TUC general secretary Norman Willis said Mr Jones was a "fighter" who would be fondly remembered.

Brendan Barber, the TUC's current general secretary, described Mr Jones as a "true giant of the Labour movement".

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