Ken Cameron (trade unionist)

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Ken Cameron (9 December 1941 – 16 May 2016) was a Scottish trade unionist. He was the head of the Fire Brigades Union for 20 years, from 1980 to 2000.

Early life[edit]

Born in Fort William to an Irish Catholic mother and a Scottish father, who worked as a linesman for the General Post Office, Cameron attended Fort William Senior Secondary School until he was fifteen. His first job on leaving school was as a cadet in the Inverness-shire Constabulary, but he did not enjoy this and left to become a trainee reporter on the Aberdeen Press and Journal. This too was not a success; while covering the Drumnadrochit Highland Games, he was unable to work on his assignment. His friends tried to help out but mistakenly listed the girl who had won the egg-and-spoon race as having won the caber toss. Subsequently, while covering a swimming competition, he fell into the pool, disrupting the event, which led to him losing the job.[1] Cameron spent time as a labourer on a hyrdo-electric scheme, before moving to Birmingham to join the fire brigade.[1][2] While there, he developed an interest in horse racing, and became a supporter of Aston Villa F.C..[1]

Fire Brigades Union[edit]

He joined the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), becoming a full-time official and then, in 1980, its general secretary.[2] His appointment was supported by his predecessor, Terry Parry, and also by Mick McGahey of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).[1] Known as a socialist, Cameron undertook much activity in support of Nelson Mandela and against apartheid in South Africa.[3] From 1981 to 1983, and again from 1991 until 1999, he served on the General Council of the Trades Union Congress (TUC),[4] He was a supporter of rights for the people of Palestine and in 1982, was the first person to propose a motion in support of Palestine at the TUC.[3] During the 1984/85 miners' strike, he campaigned in support of the miners and made a loan of £200,000 of FBU funds to the NUM.[2] While he used threats to strike to successfully maintain pay and conditions for members, under his leadership, the union never needed to mount a strike.[1] Cameron celebrated the Labour Party's general election win in 1997 but by 1999, Cameron was disillusioned with them, and he advocated that the FBU disaffiliate from Labour; this finally happened in 2004.[3]

Later life[edit]

He retired from the FBU in 2000, serving as chair of the People's Press Printing Society (publisher of the Morning Star) and on the Central Arbitration Committee,[2] and moved to Glasgow. Cameron died at the age of 74, on 16 May 2016.[1]


Trade union offices
Preceded by
Terry Parry
General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union
1980 – 2000
Succeeded by
Andy Gilchrist