Blog: Rodney will always be our giant

Today we celebrated the life of a comrade and a friend – Rodney Bickerstaffe.

It was a huge honour to be part of a very special celebration of the life of a very special man – a huge gathering of so many people joining with all of us in his UNISON family and his own family.

UNISON was Rodney’s union – the house he helped build, and whose values he championed. Today we remembered his work, his incredible achievements, but most of all – his humanity, decency and friendship.

Former UNISON and NUPE general secretary Rodney Bikerstaffe

He was instantly recognisable –those glasses, that hair – and totally unforgettable. If you knew him – you loved him. From Durham to Tolpuddle, Trafalgar Square to the TUC – Rodney was at home.

Respected, admired and loved.

He always had the time to talk and the time to listen. He loved nothing more than to listen to the stories of those he met, represented and fought for.

The lives and struggles of UNISON members informed his speeches and fired his passions, inspiring him in victory and keeping him going through the difficult lonely defeats.

Rodney was often asked what his greatest achievements were. He was clear – the Minimum Wage and the creation of UNISON.

Not a bad life’s work.

But the truth is, these were only part of Rodney’s story. His was a life of campaigning and making a difference.

Everyone in UNISON shares the grief of Rodney’s passing. We miss him and we always will

But as trade unionists – we remember our history. And we remember that every day we stand on the shoulders of giants.

And for UNISON Rodney will always be our giant.