A Tribute to Joe Mann

When I was General Secretary of the Community and Youth Workers Union Joe was the first General Secretary of another sister union that I invited to address our national conference. This was because of the importance of his work at the National League of the Blind and Disabled, a great union with much underestimated importance and success.

We then worked together very closely for years on the GFTU Executive. He was President when I was elected General Secretary and we were in daily contact almost for two significant years in the development of the organisation.

I remember nothing was too much trouble for him and he seemed to manage to get everywhere, often on his motorbike, on time or early. He never quite convinced me to ride pillion.

I tend to judge Presidents of the GFTU by how they deal with problems. Joe’s approach was interesting. I’d say ‘Joe, here’s the problem’, he would look very serious for a minute and say, ‘That’s not really a problem” and somehow it would disappear.

Two things stand out in my mind at this sad time. Joe’s incredible commitment to the cause of disabled workers and determination to create quality employment for them. We caught up very recently on his leadership of the Devon Co oP and he wrote a great piece for the GFTU about it.

Secondly we shared a commitment to creating a new leadership of trade unionists and Joe was the first ever GFTU President to insist that three young trade unionists take his place in chairing our Biennial Conference on the first day. It was a bold move. All three have gone on to great things.

GFTU Presidents can choose an international location for a study visit. Joe chose New York. He took us to a restaurant where to everyone’s surprise a T Bone steak cost £200. He wanted us to break bread together but nearly broke the bank. He also took us to an Italian restaurant recommended by the engineering union’s Italian leadership, they referred to it and their union and some of their employers as ‘part of the family’. We were not always quite sure what family they were referring to, but I am certainly eternally grateful that Joe was such an important member of our General Family of Trade Unions.

My deepest condolences to Diane and all the family, Rest in Peace brother.

Doug Nicholls.

GFTU General Secretary.

16th September 2021.

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