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Eric Hammond; OBITUARY.

AT A TIME when the Conservative government seemed to be waging allout war on the trades unions, Eric Hammond clung to one central belief.

He had to look after the interests of his own members - and if that meant dealing with hatefigures from the political right from Margaret Thatcher to Rupert Murdoch, then so be it.

In trade union terms, he was a right-winger himself, although a Labour supporter all his life. His predecessor, Frank Chapple, at the electricians' union once famously remarked as he prepared to retire: "If you think I'm rightwing, just wait until you see Eric." He had been evacuated from his native Kent to Newfoundland during the war years, and was a slightly reluctant returnee in 1945.

As a young and active member of the Labour party, he was soon spotted by those higher up in the union hierarchy, and he made rapid progress, becoming a member of the electricians' national executive in 1964 and general secretary in 1982 - by this time the electricians and plumbers unions had merged to form the EETPU, Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbing Trade Union.

He held the far left in utter contempt, but had no time at all for ineffectual leaders from the trade union right either.

His big split with the rest of the trade union movement came in the 1980s, when Rupert Murdoch's dispute with the print unions at the new presses in Wapping became particularly bitter.

He was already a sworn enemy of Arthur Scargill at the mineworkers' union, where he encouraged his men to carry on working during the 1984 strike, and had even talked of joining the Confederation of British Industry.

The divisions became final in 1988 when the TUC expelled the EETPU over one-union deals, and it was to be four years before the union returned to the fold, after Hammond's retirement and a merger with the engineers in the AEU. The combined union is now part of the Unite super-union.

Eric Hammond, trade unionist Born, July 17, 1929; died, May 30, 2009
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Article Type:Obituary
Date:Jun 5, 2009
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