Willis may retire in January

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The Independent Online
Norman Willis finally confirmed yesterday that he will retire early as general secretary of the TUC. However, speaking at a press conference ahead of next week's TUC Congress, he would only concede his intention to go before his 65th birthday in five years' time.

In the face of pressure from newspapers and union leaders, Mr Willis is likely to choose his 60th birthday next January and may be forced to reveal the exact timing to TUC delegates in Blackpool next week.

Under pointed questioning he confirmed that TUC policy was that state pensions should be available from 60 for both sexes.

The TUC general secretary may prefer not to reveal his intentions to a meeting of the ruling general council of the TUC today, many of whose members have been responsible for the whispering campaign against him. Mr Willis has been under pressure because of his perceived inability to represent the movement at a time of declining union membership and influence.

Mr Willis said he had always believed, since he was elected general secretary in 1984, that he would not remain in the post until he was 65. 'Everything that has happened since then has confirmed me in that view,' he said.

Mr Willis said that when he did make a decision about his future it would not come from pressure by newspapers and would 'never ever' be announced in the press first. He also denied reports that a delegation of trade union leaders from the TUC's finance and general purposes committee had talked to him about his future.

The man most likely to succeed Mr Willis is John Monks, the TUC's able deputy general secretary. Mr Monks, who has remained steadfastly loyal to Mr Willis, will probably benefit from the 'Buggins' turn' tradition in which the TUC general council rubber stamps the accession of the deputy general secretary to the general secretary's job.

The new deputy is likely to be Brendan Barber, head of policy and organisation and former head of the press department.

Leading article, page 28

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