Passing of ‘union stalwarts’ marked by labour leader

Union leader, Liam Gallagher.
Union leader, Liam Gallagher.

Unite the Union chief, Liam Gallagher has paid tribute to two ‘union stalwarts’ who sadly passed away at the weekend.

They were, 90-year-old Jack Coyle, former dock worker’s leader and ex-GMB union leader Bill Webster.

Mr Gallagher told the Journal: “It is with deep regret that trade unionists in the city learned of the death of Jack Coyle, affectionately known as Jackie. He was a stalwart of the trade union movement for over a generation and as a leader within the Transport and General Workers Union (T&GWU) championed the cause of dockers as a shop stewart and later a union convenor. He also played a major role when dockers took on the fight for social justice in the 1960s.

“Jackie went on to become a regional officer of T&GWU, which later became Unite. He will always be remembered for his integrity in fighting for working class people throughout the city.

“Branch 33 extend their heartfelt sympathy to his family and circle of friends.”

Dock workers regularly joined Civil Rights parades in the city throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s. The importance of the workers to the commercial lifeblood of the city’s port was pivotal and their protest action was a concern for the port and civil authorities because of the potential disruption to the flow of business along the quayside.

In one renowned incident in November 1968, dockers were amongst protesting workers who defied a Stormont ban on protests and joined a sit down protest when blocked by police at Ferryquay Gate.

Mr Gallagher also paid tribute to Bill Webster, a lifelong member of the GMB union.

“Local trade unionists also deeply regret the death of Bill Webster, a stalwart of left-wing politics.

“Although Bill was a native Liverpudlian, he loved Derry and its people.

“For many years Bill played a major role in the Derry Trades Union Council and was very highly regarded for his brand of working class politics.

“Bill was very much a character in the city and always went out of his way to help anyone who found themselves at the receiving end of bad employment practice,” Mr Gallagher said.