Many of you have already heard the sad news about Ian MacDonald's very untimely death in the early hours of Friday morning.
Ian had been struggling so bravely with terminal stomach cancer for several months yet until recently managed to keep up with his many trade union commitments, never complaining and in ever good humour. How many people could do that?
But that was Ian. He was positive, cheerful, ever committed and full of comradeship, never one to complain about himself. Not one to make enemies of others and few if any people I know would ever have said a bad word about him. There are a lot of good trade unionists but Ian showed an example of what it was like to be one of the best.
Ian was Branch Secretary at Leeds 8/9-12 Branch representing bus workers at First Leeds Buses for many years and before that West Yorkshire PTE. He led his members well through the many struggles we all faced in this industry from public ownership through to private, and the difficulties in dealing with a tough multinational like FirstGroup. His success as a negotiator is proved by his achievements in winning for his members some of the best terms and conditions in the area. I know many of his members owe a personal debt of gratitude to Ian for the individual case work he handled, dealing with disciplines and grievances tirelessly and effectively, giving wise advice and sharing his knowledge from long experience as a sound trade unionist.
His progressive left politics and socialist values ran right through Ian and guided his thoughts and actions quietly at all times. But it was his work for the anti-fascist movement which was one the most remarkable of his long career. He stood up to the racists and fascists and became a target of Redwatch, the vile website which targets those who dare to challenge their vicious ideology of hatred. Even though his house was attacked, he never once flinched or wavered. Behind that good humour was a gritty and determined strength.
A long standing and prominent member of the TGWU and then UNITE, he served on the UNITE Executive Council representing his Region, and the UNITE Regional Committee. Before that he represented the Passenger Services trade group on the T&G Regional Committee. Ian also played a very prominent role in the Union's delegate structure for FirstGroup members, serving as Vice Chair of the National Liaison Committee (NLC) and was well-regarded for his progressive and thoughtful views and negotiating skills. He was very supportive and always active in the international struggle we waged with our sister unions in the USA to confront FirstGroup's vicious anti-trade union tactics in FirstStudent yellow buses. His comradeship and good nature made him a wonderful ambassador for our union when we met fellow trade unionists from “across the pond” during that campaign. He shares much of the credit for our collective success in winning 35,000 new trade unionists in FirstStudent.But don't think for one minute Ian was only a T&G and then a UNITE man. Far from it. He was Secretary of Leeds Trades Council for many years and served on the TUC Regional Committee, often battling for a more proactive stance than many of his fellow members wanted for a visible campaigning TUC. He was Secretary of the TUC Joint Trades Council Committee, leading this noisy and vibrant lay member movement with good humour and positive commitment.
Ian's trademark was his amazing choice of bizarre colourful shirts, always a talking point and an excuse to exchange some witty remarks and have a bit of fun. But he wore them because he could not stand stuffiness and pomp. He wanted to show that being a committed trade unionist could be colourful and fun. And why not? But no-one but Ian would have dared wear those outrageous dresses on the Pride Marches he attended! In fact he would never miss one. He was absolutely committed to winning respect as well as rights for the LGBT community and naturally felt solidarity towards those who suffered discrimination just because they were of a different sexuality to himself. It was a bit surprising just how much he enjoyed wearing those dresses though!
It really is a shame he has missed the presentation of the UNITE Gold Medal by literally days. It was due to be presented to him at the next Regional Committee on 17th October. He would have been so proud to receive it – and was really looking forward to it.For all that he did for his Union, the wider union movement and his members, for his good humour and commitment, his wonderful shirts(!) and his ever positive and cheerful demeanour, thanks Ian. You were a man who did make a difference, who leaves behind probably hundreds if not thousands of friends who are so terribly saddened at your untimely passing. You were unfairly robbed of the long and happy retirement you so much deserved.
They say the good die young. Why is that so often true? This was a truly good and decent man who did not deserve to die like this in his early sixties, and with so much to give.
Goodbye Ian. Rest in Peace