Speaking yesterday (19 January) on learning of the death of Kevin Halpin Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “I speak on behalf of the Unite Executive Council and the entire membership of the union in expressing deep sorrow on hearing this news.
“Kevin Halpin spent a life time as a lay activist, rank and file militant and working class leader, always a member of Unite legacy unions and always a member of the Communist party.
“He first came into industrial life after service in the Royal Navy in the Second World War. At Briggs Motor Bodies (now Ford) at Dagenham he worked alongside future T&G general secretary Ron Todd and branch secretary Bernie Passingham, portrayed by Bob Hoskins in the film Made in Dagenham.
“After a major strike in the early 1960s on the return to work Kevin was one of 17 shop stewards Ford would not take back. Kevin moved on to ship repair on the Thames and finished his working life in the London Underground Acton works.
“Union activism in those key London workplaces may have been enough for many but not for Kevin. Arising out of the Donavan proposals to reform industrial relations law in the mid-1960s Kevin became the founding Chair of the Liaison Committee for the Defence of Trade Unions, formed to fight the first of the anti-union laws.
“Donovan morphed into Barbara Castle’s In Place of Strife, which proposed to send shop stewards to jail. By the early 1970s many of these proposals became law in the Conservative’s Industrial Relations Act. Kevin led the resistance to all of this, most particularly in defence of the jailed London dockers, the Pentonville 5.
“The Conservatives don’t change of course, in the closing years of Kevin’s life the Tories have returned with more anti-union laws in the shape of the Trade Union Act, 2016.
“Kevin’s contribution to the labour movement was immeasurable and extraordinary. The current generation of Unite representatives will seek, I am sure, to emulate both his activism and commitment to the cause.
“Kevin leaves his wife, Anita, their son, Boris, daughter in law, Jerusa, and two grandchildren, Sophia and Hans Kevin. Unite sends all our deepest sympathies.”