Jack Jones (trade unionist)

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Jack Jones CH MBE
Born James Larkin Jones
(1913-03-29)29 March 1913
Garston, Liverpool, Lancashire, England, UK
Died 21 April 2009(2009-04-21) (aged 96)
Peckham, London, England, UK
Nationality British
Occupation Union leader
Known for former General Secretary, Transport and General Workers' Union

James Larkin Jones, CH, MBE (29 March 1913 – 21 April 2009), known as Jack Jones, was a British trade union leader and General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union.

Early life[edit]

Jones was born in Garston, Liverpool, Lancashire. He was named after the Liverpool born Irish trade unionist James Larkin. He left school at 14 and worked as an engineering apprentice. After the Wall Street Crash, Jones lost his job, eventually finding employment with a firm of signmakers and painters. He then joined his father as a Liverpool docker.

Jack Jones was converted to socialism by reading The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell, and he later explained how the book "was passed from hand to hand among people in the Labour movement and had a remarkable effect on our thinking".[1] He became a member of the Transport and General Workers Union, and was elected shop steward, then a delegate on the National Docks Group Committee.[2]

Spanish Civil War[edit]

Strongly opposed to the British Union of Fascists and their leader Oswald Mosley, Jones organised protest-meetings against the fascists in Liverpool, and was beaten up by a group of Blackshirts armed with knuckle-dusters.[3][1] In 1936 at the start of the Spanish Civil War, Jones joined and served with the British Battalion of the XV International Brigade as the political commissar of the Major Attlee Company,[4] and was seriously wounded at the Battle of Ebro in 1938.[1]

Second World War[edit]

On his return to Britain, Jones became a full-time official of the TGWU in Coventry. Jones played a key role in organising the workforce of the West Midlands motor industry in the postwar period as Regional Secretary of the TGWU. He was a strong supporter of the shop steward movement aimed at promoting trade union and industrial democracy. He was an early supporter of the Institute for Workers' Control. While Assistant General Secretary of the union and a member of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, he chaired the Labour Party policy group on Industrial Democracy.

General Secretary of the Union[edit]

Jones was elected General Secretary of the TGWU in 1968. Together with Hugh Scanlon, President of the Amalgamated Engineering Union he led the left-wing trade union opposition (associated with Broad Left[5]) to the 1966-70 Labour Government's prices and incomes policy, and the efforts of that government to introduce legislation that would have enforced a 28-day cooling off period before strike action could be taken.[5]

While General Secretary, he was chief economic spokesman for the Trades Union Congress and one of the authors of the Social Contract. Jones was also instrumental in the creation of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) in 1975,[2] and was a member of the National Economic Development Council from 1969 to 1978. Jones campaigned for Britain to leave the EEC in the 1975 referendum.[6]

In January 1977 a Gallup opinion poll found that 54% of people believed that Jones was the most powerful person in Britain, ahead of the Prime Minister,[7] and is held responsible by some in the Labour Party for being "the union leader that created the winter of discontent and 18 years of Conservative Party (UK) rule.",[8] despite the fact that he had retired from the leadership of the TGWU in 1978, the year before the winter of discontent.

According to KGB defector Oleg Gordievsky, Jones provided intelligence to the Soviet Union in return for money.[9] This was denied by Jones, who described the allegations as a "slur and an outrage".[10] In the authorised history of MI5 The Defence of the Realm, the author Christopher Andrew, using Gordievsky as his source, claimed that Jones passed Labour Party documents to the Soviets for cash, with the last payments to Jones occurring in 1984.[11]

Retirement[edit]

Jack Jones House, Liverpool

In retirement from the T&G, Jones served as the President of the National Pensioners Convention, an umbrella organisation representing over 1,000 local, regional and national pensioners' groups, of which he was Honorary Life President. He was also President of the International Brigade Memorial Trust. Jack Jones' last public act was to unveil a memorial at Newhaven Fort on 7 December 2008, 70 years after British Battalion members returned to the port after the International Brigades were withdrawn from Spain.

Jones was nominated for the position of Chancellor of the University of London, but lost the election to Princess Anne in 1981. After writing his autobiography, Union Man (published in 1986), Jones became a campaigner on behalf of pensioners.

At the Labour Party conference in Bournemouth in October 2003, aged 90, he received a special award in recognition of his service to the trade union movement.

The TGWU building Transport House in Liverpool was refurbished by Unite (the trade union formed from the merger of the TGWU and Amicus) and renamed Jack Jones House in 2009.[12]

Death[edit]

Jones lived in South London until his death,[13] and died in a care home in Peckham on 21 April 2009.[14] He was survived by his two sons. His wife of more than 50 years, Evelyn (née Taylor) had died three years earlier. She had first been married to the communist trade union organiser and close friend of Jones, George Brown but he had been killed in the Battle of Brunete in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Jack Jones biography". www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  2. ^ a b "Jack Jones". Seniors Network. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  3. ^ Arthur, Max (2009). "The Real Band Of Brothers – First hand accounts from the last British survivors of the Spanish Civil War". Section 3 – Jack JONES, Page 125, reference to Jack Jones’s opposition to the Blackshirts (Collins). ISBN 9780007295098. 
  4. ^ "Jack Jones". The Daily Telegraph (London). 22 April 2009. Retrieved 5 May 2010. 
  5. ^ a b Legacy of Jack Jones 1913-2009 Fifth International. Retrieved on 28-07-2009.
  6. ^ Butler, David and Kitzinger, Uwe (1976) The 1975 Referendum. London: Macmillan; p. 232.
  7. ^ "Gallup Poll". Margaret Thatcher (organisation). 1977. 
  8. ^ "Is this the week that Labour lost the next election?", The Guardian, 31 January 2009
  9. ^ Jack Jones, Soviet spy: Special investigation reveals how union boss sold secrets to the KGB for 45 years
  10. ^ Former KGB colonel says he paid late union leader Jack Jones £200 for information
  11. ^ "Jack Jones 'worked for KGB' claim", BBC News, 5 October 2009.
  12. ^ NorthWest Regional Development Agency Unite gives Transport House new lease of life
  13. ^ "Jack Jones news story". 
  14. ^ "Union boss Jack Jones dies at 96". BBC News. 2009-04-21. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Frank Cousins
General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union
1968–1976
Succeeded by
Moss Evans
Preceded by
New position
President of the National Pensioners Convention
1979–2001
Succeeded by
Rodney Bickerstaffe