Gerry Kelly obituary | Business

Gerry Kelly, who has died of most cancers aged 69, had a life that was bookended by the 2 issues he was most pleased with: his position within the constructing employees’ strike of 1972 and a educating profession, which started late in life.

In the early Nineteen Seventies constructing employees have been poorly paid and dealing circumstances have been grim. There hadn’t been a strike within the business for practically 50 years. Gerry began work in 1971 on the Woodgate Valley website in Birmingham. Together with different activists, he set about recruiting the employees into the newly fashioned Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (Ucatt) commerce union. By February 1972 the employees had secured a staggering 50% pay enhance, the abolition of the infamous “lump” fee system and improved working circumstances. Along the best way, Gerry had been sacked and reinstated twice.

He was additionally lively within the subsequent nationwide strike, which lasted three months and secured a 25% pay enhance. A vicious backlash adopted. Gerry and 4 different Birmingham Ucatt members have been placed on trial for conspiracy however later acquitted. However, he was blacklisted and by no means labored within the business once more.

Gerry then went to school, first at Nottingham, later transferring to North London Polytechnic. After commencement he labored, amongst different issues, as an recommendation employee for the Irish group in north London and as a guard on the London Underground. Clerking for solicitor’s companies was a mainstay and a authorized profession appeared to beckon – however educating was his calling. He accomplished a PGCE on the Institute of Education, and began work at Highams Park faculty in Waltham Forest, north-east London, in 2001, the place he taught English till he retired in 2017.

He was an lively member of the National Union of Teachers and, later, the National Education Union, his early Ucatt activism and authorized expertise making him an in a position advocate for his colleagues. There was additionally, guitar in hand, his famed rendition of Elvis Presley’s Blue Christmas on the faculty’s Christmas meeting.

Songwriting was one other late-flowering accomplishment, and he was very proud that one in all his songs featured on the soundtrack of the documentary Miners Shot Down (2014), a robust condemnation of the Marikana bloodbath in South Africa in 2012.

He was born in Roscommon in Ireland to Mary (nee Tully), a nurse, and Tom, a tailor, earlier than his household settled in Balsall Heath, Birmingham. Gerry attended George Dixon grammar faculty however left, aged 16, and began constructing work. He was intensely pleased with being Irish and was additionally a loyal Birmingham City fan – the latter, maybe, being one of many few sources of disappointment in his life.

I first met Gerry practically 40 years in the past once we each lived on the identical council property in Islington, north London, and we quickly grew to become buddies. Open and gregarious, he had a real reward for friendship. He is survived by his accomplice, Susan O’Shea, his son, Brendan, from a earlier relationship, with Chlöe Watkins, and his siblings, Ann, Cathy, Maggie and Tommy.

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