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Monday, 13 August, 2001, 17:39 GMT 18:39 UK
Jimmy Knapp: The life of a union man
Jimmy Knapp
Jimmy Knapp: A union leader for nearly 20 years
BBC Political Correspondent Nicholas Jones looks back at the career of rail union boss Jimmy Knapp who died on Monday.

Jimmy Knapp took over as general secretary of the RMT after a succession of all-out strikes in the early 1980s which closed down the rail network in protest at new working practices such as flexible rostering.

Like others on the left of the movement, he urged railwaymen to show solidarity during the miners' strike by not moving coal from the pits to the power stations.

He realised though the limitations of strike action - opting for one-day stoppages - and he urged his union to accept the ballots on strike action imposed by the Conservatives.

One set back was his failure to get approval for strike action over the introduction of driver only trains.

Mr Knapp's thick accent sometimes made him difficult to understand but he was instantly recognisable.

Beneath his gruff exterior was a friendly and engaging manner and he was often criticised by the left for not being tough enough.

His greatest disappointment was the failure of the unions to stop break-up and privatisation of British Rail, eventually brought about under Conservative Prime Minister John Major.

But he'll be remembered as a union leader at the forefront of the industrial battles of the Thatcher years.

See also:

13 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Union leader Jimmy Knapp dies
13 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Jimmy Knapp: Old school, new ideas
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