Roy Jackson: High-ranking TUC official who built up a nationwide system of trade union education

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The Independent Online

Roy Jackson, the former Assistant General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress, was widely respected throughout the movement as one of the leading movers in building up a nationwide system of trade union education. Over 30,000 trade unionists a year would complete the courses he instituted.

To many Roy epitomised the trade union bureaucrat, an unshowy man who got on with the job. He was to play a leading part in the industrial relations disputes of the 1970s and 1980s which was to see the role of British trade unions and the working lives of many, change irrevocably.

Born in Paddington, West London, and educated at North Paddington School, he was the youngest son ofa family of 11. His father was a sailor. He left school to work in the PostOffice Savings Bank, but called up for National Service he followed his father in to the navy.

On demob he won a trade union scholarship to Ruskin College, Oxford, where other students at the timeincluded Norman Willis, later General Secretary of the TUC, and Professor Lord Bill McCarthy. Jackson went on to Worcester College, Oxford, where he obtained a BA in philosophy, politics and economics; and where he met a fellow member of the Labour Party, a young Australian. Rupert Murdoch and Roy would meet years later during the dispute over Fleet Street and Wapping.

Jackson left Oxford to join the TUC's Education Department, becoming Director of Studies in 1964. At that time workplace education was not treated as an important part of trade union development, but under his guidance it moved in to centre stage to be negotiated and fought for. The increasing influence of shop stewards, highlighted by the 1968 Report of the Royal Commission on Trade Unions and Employers' Associations led to the TUC adopting a report, Training Shop Stewards, written by Jackson, which called for a student-centred style of education for trade unionists. It was to radically change teaching methods for trade union education.

Jackson was appointed head of the Education Department in 1974. The courses became increasingly popular as trade unionists sought training. Jackson was responsible for making sure the TUC took a leading role in Prime Minister Jim Callaghan's debates on education. In 1984 he and Clive Jenkins, General Secretary of the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staff and head of the TUC's Education Committee, were responsible for setting up the TUC National College at Hornsey.

It was no surprise when he was appointed as Assistant General Secretary to Norman Willis in 1984. Willis was facing political and industrial challenges and needed steady support; Jackson was thrust in to one of the most volatile periods of trade union activity as the miners strike was going through its final stages, and News International moved its operations out of Fleet Street to Wapping, igniting a year-long strike. This was to be followed by the expulsion of the electricians union from Congress. Jackson was involved with talks to resolve many of the inter-union disputes which could have damaged the status and work of the TUC,and established a reputation with all sides – management and workers – as being a hard-working, highly professional individual.

He was also responsible for reorganising the TUC itself, leading a very successful refurbishment of Congress House, modernising the 1950s and introducing new technology. He led a review of finances and procedures and introduced constitutional changes to ensure that the organisation was better able to deal with many of the new issues it faced.

He was always supportive of those working for the TUC. John Monks, a former TUC General Secretary speaking at Roy's funeral, remembered how he had helped and advised and given encouragement both to Monks himself and to Brendan Barber, the present General Secretary, when they were members of staff. Norman Willis had told him that Jackson's idealism had been built on what he thought was the best of trade unionism: "The TUC had a mission to stop bullying at work, to educate those who missed out at school, and to train and build up the confidence of their own representatives."

In the 1980s Jackson became amember of the Manpower Services Commission and served on a number of public bodies such as the OpenUniversity Committee on Continuing Education and the Schools Council Convocation. Following his early retirement through ill-health, he continued to play an active role as a member of the Employment Appeals Tribunal and as a non-executive director of Remploy, the government owned company which provides employment for disabled people.

A lifelong member of the Labour Party, Jackson was an active member of the Welwyn/Hatfield Branch, and one of the very few people to have received a Trade Union Gold Badge and a merit award from the Labour Party.

Roy Jackson, trade unionist: born London 18 June 1928; Assistant General Secretary, Trades Union Congress 1984–92; married 1956 Lily Ley (three daughters); died Hatfield, Hertfordshire 11 December 2010.