In memory of good times, good lunches and good advice.
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- Guild Hall Copenhagen Street Worcester WR1 2EY
- 20th Jul 2015
- Funeral Director
- George Crump and Son Funeral Directors
In the year the Berlin Wall came down, Roger Poole, the public face of the 89/90 ambulance dispute, was voted runner-up to Mikhail Gorbachev in the Today programme’s ‘Man of the Year’ contest.
The outstanding communications skills of the then Assistant General Secretary of the National Union of Public Employees won, paradoxically, unprecedented popularity for national industrial action in a front-line emergency service. For over six months his deft verbal sparring with the then Health Secretary Ken Clarke and his modern, conciliatory leadership attracted colossal support for the crews well beyond their unions’ natural heartlands.
Roger’s campaigning flair was rooted in his deep sense of social justice and equality which pre-dated his 30-year plus career in the trade union movement.
Born in Bristol to Lillian Marguarite and Samuel Martin Poole, Roger was one of three children and grew up in Clifton, attending Ashton Park secondary modern school until the age of fifteen leaving with no formal qualifications. Roger’s first job was in a laboratory with his father; afterwards he became an apprentice motor mechanic, then a police officer with the Avonmouth Docks Police, where his interest in the trade union movement first began.
He always claimed that his devotion to the ‘underdog’ was honed by a lifetime’s support of Bristol Rovers FC.
Roger relished a challenge and had a keen eye for a presentational angle. In 1970 he and Bernice spent their honeymoon – with nine other passengers – touring the US and South America on a double decker bus promoting British goods, including Cornish jewellery, chemical toilets and carpets. Under Harold Wilson’s “Backing Britain” initiative, Roger had secured CBI backing for this Summer Holiday style expedition which called in at every embassy and consulate on route but was finally stopped in its tracks in a river in Peru.
Roger’s next project was helping to launch an international emergency fund for students before joining Nupe as a full-time official in 1971.
Roger was deeply committed to international socialism working tirelessly with sister unions in Cuba, South Africa and elsewhere. His vision and values identified causes long before they were mainstream. In the 80s Roger joined forces with ex- General Secretary Alan Fisher to present evidence at the Sizewell B inquiry. He also campaigned with HIV/AIDS specialist Professor Tony Pinching to highlight HIV/AIDS as a workplace issue despite fierce resistance in some union quarters. Roger worked with unlikely allies – including a senior Tory politician – to influence Margaret Thatcher on the need for urgent action. He used the same widely-focused approach to even greater effect in representations during the ambulance crews’ campaign.
Roger was a key player in the negotiations between Nupe, COHSE and NALGO to form Britain’s first super-union Unison in 1993. In 1999 Roger was asked to join the team set up by the government to look at the future of the Co-operative movement. And when he retired from Unison, he was appointed by the then Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain to chair the NI Parades Commission from 2005 to 2009. Roger’s exceptional negotiating skills were further recognised and put to use in a series of sensitive roles in recent years, including mediating on labour relations at Royal Mail.
When Roger was diagnosed with colon cancer he fought the disease in the same way he had fought his union battles – with the conviction of hope, humour and humanity.
He is survived by his wife Bernice, son Jason, daughter Jessica and three granddaughters – Lexus, Megan and Bethany.
Roger Poole, trade unionist, born 11 July 1946; died 3 July 2015
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Unique to Roger's memory, a beautifully printed A4 hardback memorial bookFind out more