George Brumwell

Construction workers' leader


George Brent Brumwell, joiner and trade unionist: born Hartlepool, Co Durham 22 October 1939; General Secretary, Ucatt 1992-2004; CBE 2003; married first Beryl Johnson (died 1999; one son, three daughters), second 2004 Dorothy Moorhouse; died London 8 November 2005.

George Brumwell, former General Secretary of the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians, is credited with having rescued Ucatt from oblivion during the 1990s, when political infighting and financial mismanagement had called the future of the union into doubt. He retired in October 2004. By then, Britain's 10th biggest trade union was operating with a healthy financial surplus and was expanding its membership of over 100,000 building workers and its team of full-time officers.

When he took office as General Secretary in 1992, an atmosphere of crisis and suspicion shrouded the union. In the previous year, there had been a walkout by a dozen full-time officials to rival unions. The trigger for the defections was the election in 1991 of a new Ucatt executive council with a majority opposed to the previous leadership's plan for a grand merger with the EETPU electricians' union and the AEU engineering workers' union.

However, the incoming executive was itself soon to open merger talks with yet another rival organisation, the Transport and General Workers' Union. Brumwell, who had been elected on a strongly anti-merger platform, was in the difficult position of having to carry out the instructions of his executive while all the time being sympathetic to the large body of opinion within the union that favoured continued independence.

Matters came to a head in 1994 and 1995, with a bitter power struggle between the executive council, whose members were full-time officials, and the general council, the union's rank-and-file supervisory and appeals body. The battle was eventually settled in the High Court in London, with a ruling upholding the general council's decision to assume control of the union.

Brumwell played a key behind-the-scenes role in the manoeuvrings which saw the executive council sidelined. In January 1995 he even discharged himself from a hospital bed in order to attend a crucial meeting of the general council.

By 1997 the tide had turned decisively. The union's bank balance moved into the black. Thanks to a rule change pushed through by Brumwell, a new lay executive council had replaced the previous full-time body. In addition, the union's national delegate conference had in 1996 voted overwhelmingly in favour of Ucatt's remaining independent.

Brumwell's legacy was not just to ensure that workers in construction had their own specialist and independent trade union. His other great ambition was to make employment in construction a lifelong career. "It shouldn't just be a 'loadsamoney' job for young men, but a profession to be pursued by men and women with pride and security from apprenticeship to retirement," he said.

During his stewardship of Ucatt, Brumwell supported several innovations which went some way to seeing this ambition realised. The Construction Skills Certification Scheme, which now has 750,000 building workers on its books, was successfully introduced. There were moves by the Inland Revenue to tackle bogus self-employment and lump labour in construction. The industry's first ever contributory pension scheme was launched. And several union-sponsored measures were taken to improve the health and safety of building workers.

Brumwell joined the Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers (ASW) in 1957 as a 17-year-old apprentice joiner with the Hartlepool shipbuilder William Gray. By 1962 he was the union convener at Eggborough power station in North Yorkshire, a position he held for three years.

Six years later, he was elected a full-time district official in Sheffield of the ASW - which merged with other building trade unions in 1971 to form Ucatt. In 1974 he became Ucatt's youngest regional secretary when he moved to Leeds to take charge of the Yorkshire region. From 1984 he was based in London as the full-time executive council member for the union's Midlands and Yorkshire regions.

In 1991 Brumwell won a sharply contested ballot to become general secretary of the union. The fact that he was re-elected unopposed five years later was a clear indication of the way that he had by then both put an end to years of factional infighting and imposed his personal authority on the union.

Jim Jump

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links