Ian Rez

My friend Ian Rez died this morning. He was rushing to get to a meeting. He had a massive heart attack, and died shortly afterwards.

Ian was one of those amazing trade unionists who keeps going, and going, and going. He was a Left activist in ASTMS, MSF, Amicus and most recently in Unite. Ian told me sometimes, ‘You’ve got to slow down, Gill, or you’ll burn out’ – but he probably didn’t take his own advice.

I first met Ian probably in 1996, when I started working in the NHS and joined MSF. Ian at the time was an absolute stalwart of the union: in the Left at regional and national level, in the NHS, and in London. There were rival Left groups in MSF at the time – Ian, typically, was active in both of them.

Ian had worked in the NHS for over 40 years. He pretty much retired about a year ago, but couldn’t bring himself to stop his union work. He carried on working part time at North Middlesex Hospital, mostly to keep Staff Side going and to build Unite. He got his 30 year badge at Health Conference 2006. Ian could be cynical sometimes, and downright furious when he saw corruption or political cowardice at the top of our movement – but he was so proud to be recognised for his 30 years of union activity. His speech when he was given the badge was along the lines of, ‘Amicus is a brilliant union, but we must never lose sight of our members. Go back and recruit more reps!’

Ian was never a passenger in the union movement. He was a fighter, someone who had been involved in every battle going over a very long time. He used to joke about Clive Jenkins, former General Secretary of ASTMS. Jenkins made some particularly nasty attack on the Left at a union conference many, many years ago, denouncing Ian and others as ‘the termites of our movement’. Ian was tickled pink. He called himself ‘Terry the Termite’, and cheerfully used this as a by-line in union publications.

I’ve been thinking today about all the different campaigns that Ian was a part of. There were different strands to his activity: socialism and social justice, a relentless battle for lay control in the union, and simple, straightforward, passionate industrial trade unionism.

We argued about politics sometimes. Ian was a Labour Party member for a long time, but left in disgust as Blair and New Labour triumphed. He rejoined the Labour Party to support John McDonnell’s bid for Labour leader. I argued you could support John McDonnell outside the Labour Party, Ian strongly disagreed – but actually it didn’t matter. Ian was never sectarian. He had an open and honest approach to politics and to all his work in the union. People really liked and respected Ian – partly because of his conspicuous honesty and unwavering principles, and also because he was just a really nice bloke.

Another of Ian’s big fights was around Ken Livingstone’s initial bid to become Mayor of London. Back in 2000, the Labour Party stopped MSF members having a vote on who to nominate – Blair, of course, backed Frank Dobson, and didn’t want union members to overturn his choice. Ian was one of a group of prominent MSF members who took legal action to try and force Labour to allow us a vote. The case failed, and there was a savage witch hunt inside the union against those who had dared to challenge. The hostility faced by Ian and colleagues would have destroyed many of us. Ian just got on with being a trade union activist.

Ian had absolute contempt for General Secretaries and National Executive members who get caught up in the trade union ‘gravy train’. He was scornful of Roger Lyons, former General Secretary of MSF, and Lyons’ questionable use of the union credit card. He stood by those who were victimised by Lyons. More recently, he expressed real fury at the Amicus NEC members who voted themselves a ‘jolly’ in Cuba at the members’ expense. I could not in a million years imagine Ian being personally corrupt.

Ian hated injustice, and did so not passively but as an activist. I remember marching with Ian on countless demonstrations, and he kept on marching even as his health deteriorated over the last couple of years. In particular, Ian steadfastly opposed the war in Iraq. He was also appalled by the Government’s attacks on the NHS, and a stout defender of a publicly owned and controlled health service.

Above all, Ian was a trade unionist. He believed that unions belong to their members – a belief that was central to his vision of trade unionism.

Ian was victimised for trade union activity, and sacked from his job many years ago. It didn’t stop him. He got another job, picked up the pieces, and carried on as a union rep. He did all the practical boring day to day work that doesn’t get you any glory but delivers for members in the workplace.

I found an old posting from Ian on a union email list. It was about the Agenda for Change pay deal in the NHS. This was sold to us with the claim that only a few union members would lose, but most of us would gain. Ian’s comment? He said, ‘As trade unionists we cannot just be concerned with our own self-interest. The principle that the strong always protected the weak still holds true in 2004. That’s why the AfC deal must be rejected’. It was that belief that inspired Ian across 30 years as a trade unionist.

Ian was a comrade – a socialist and a trade unionist, and a very decent human being. I’ll miss him.

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17 Responses to Ian Rez

  1. Anna says:

    A great eulogy. It’s very important to remember the positive contributions individuals have made at the time of their death. They help us to carry on in what can feel like very difficult times.

  2. Christine Gallimore says:

    Missing you already Ian.

    Crispy

  3. Ray says:

    I had heard about this yesterday and am extremely saddened by this. Others will have known Ian much better and longer than I and will have their own thoughts and memories of him. As Gill said he did retire at the 2006 Conference and at the time was adamant that it would be his last but returned again this year. I smile when I think of that and had a joke with hin about that but it just goes to show the absoulute dedication Ian put into his trade union work. He would have been missed even if he had only going to be retired but tragically we lose him like this.

    I don’t really know anything about any family that Ian has but my thoughts are with them. We have a National Sector Committee meeting early next week at which we can pay our respects formally.

    Goodbye to a good comrade.

    Ray Stewart

    Scottish Regional Health Sector Committee and National Health Sector Committee

  4. Martin Wallis says:

    I first met Ian at the MSF May 2000 conference in Harrogate it was my first conference. Ian was a Biomedical Technician in the NHS like myself and we had many a long talk about our issues. He was very supportive and helped explain to me all the things that happen at a union conference I was blown away by it all. He was a good guy I will miss him.

    Martin Wallis

    South West Regional Council Member

  5. Ian Nicol says:

    I worked with Ian for many years within the NHS Sector, I had always found him extrememly supportive, especially when he chaired and I was the secretary of the London Health Service Advisory. I had not seen him for many years having moved it from London. He was as Gill said a great campaigner. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

    Ian Nicol
    West London Medical Branch

  6. Gwyn Morris says:

    I have known Ian since about 1988 maybe a bit later. I was in the ASTMS branch in Bedford and the Eastern Region delegate to the SERTUC health service commitee and Ian represented London. Later we were both involved in many campaigns and after my move to London with the Regional Council. The termite reference might be from Clive Jenkin’s farewell conference in Cardiff – he called me a maggot – not sure which was best. Like Ian Nicol we lost contact – but since moving to work in Colindale ( where Ian worked for many yeras) we got back in touch and i saw him a few times in the past few months and we were going to have a pint to catch up on old times. Sadly now no longer possible. he was as everyone has said a great guy – I hope he has a great sendoff.

  7. Cathy Watson says:

    I only got to know Ian over the last two years, but he was unfailingly helpful in filling me in about the long, tangled history of the union. I last saw him at the Health Conference this year and we shared a single malt together in a Brighton pub. I shall miss him a great deal.
    Cathy Watson
    North London Health Branch

  8. Ian Boylett says:

    Thank you for representing the views of us all so well. I have worked with Ian for a number of years as reps at North Middlesex Hospital and will miss him, like so many others. He could be a “pain in the butt” at times but this should never be confused with his unfailing support for his members.

  9. Jim Brady says:

    I first met Ian way back in 1968 when I began my long association with the then Central Public Health.We use to have long chats covering many topics and of course that included politics.Later on my department decided to take industrial action and had joined then named ASTMS.Ian expressed his veiw that he should join a Union which he promply did and actively participated until his untimely death.

    What lasting thoughts do I have of Ian.He could be tetchy highly self opinionated and certainly did not suffer fools gladly.But overidingly he was a decent highly principled man who concerns was for justice and fair treatment to all.

    He is someone who I am proud to have known

  10. Frank Wood says:

    I met Ian soon after joining the union in 1988, I had attended a meeting at which Frank Dobson was speaking and I made a contribution on staff shortages. Ian introduced himself and directed me to my local branch and the London Health Sector Advisory.

    In those 20 years a lot of trade union reps have been active in the London NHS and many have left for pastures new or where ever reps disappear to – but Ian was always there.

    He was active in the Campaign for a Democratic Union and along with Hugh McGrillen fought to build the left in MSF and to oppose the merger with the AEEU. As a speaker he always bought passion and committment to the rostrum but was always a generous opponent, avoiding personal attacks and never relying on his seniority to win the point. He also knew the various rule books better than anyone and was an invaluable source of advice.

    After the previous sector conference I had spoken on reducing working hours and described some of the far better things that can be done instead of work. Ian approached me and said he enjoyed my speach immensly and hoped to spend more time enjoying listening to and playing jazz. Its a terrible shame that he has missed out on a future he very richly deserved.

  11. John McDonnell MP says:

    Ian was an ardent socialist and deeply committed trade unionist.

    I am proud to have known him.

    There are many people in our movement who work tremendously hard and courageously but quietly on behalf of the cause. Ian was one of them. He just got on with the job of representing and working for others. He was a tenacious and forthright campaigner whom I respected greatly.

    I pay tribute to him as a friend and comrade.

    John McDonnell MP

  12. helen mcfarlane says:

    deeply shocked to hear about Ian’s sudden death. His passion, energy and direct and principled approach, with his knowledge of the rule books and his immense experience and knowledge of all our predecessor unions will be missed – massively missed by us all.
    have dug out an old email from Ian in response to a query from me about the MSF attempt at organising an NHS conference – which, in those days, was just a tag on to the annual delegates conference. It shows his knowledge of conference and union procedure, his vision and campaigning for lay membership involvement, his distaste for union leadership not valuing lay membership involvement, his attention to detail (see roger spiller vs gail comment) and his practical, direct and organising approach. all in one short email.

    Hi All,
    They always send the stuff out for the NHS ‘conference’ (sic) seperately to the NHS delegates to Annual Conference. By the way, they (the union leadership) should stop calling this waste of delegates time a NHS conference as there is zero input from members at the grass roots level. One of our demands must be a proper NHS conference with NHS members having say in the agenda, including motions from branches.
    Also, I thought that Spiller was no-longer the NHS N.S. and that Gail Cartmel had taken over from May 1st. However, Reps Direct still has Roger’s name on it!
    It’s important that we all get to conference early on the Friday afternoon. We need to arrange a meeting place and time e.g. outside the Winter Gardens 1/2 hour before the start of the NHS Conference?
    I think the leaflet needs to be short and simple. Perhaps a long the lines of the leadership sell-out on AfC and a demand for a ‘real’ NHS Conference. What do you think?
    Ian

    well Ian got the real NHS conference (short of branch motions) and was great to see him in Brighton 2008. so sad I won’t be seeing him again.

    Helen McFarlane Scotland

  13. sue waller says:

    I remember Ian as a comrade and friend.

    I first met ian in 1982 through ASTMS. I was involved in division 15 and Ian was active in division 8. We met at various london conferences and demonstrations. Unlike many old lags in the union Ian was very inclusive of everybody. I remember trying to say something in a meeting and getting very tongued-tied and confused in my reasoning as some of the other old lags laughed at my youth and inarticulacy. I was almost in tears because of this. Ian, who I did not really know then, was outraged by this and stood up and told the meeting that they should be mocking people they should be encouraging new activists. This gave me tremendous confidence. Through combined work and union associates I got to know Ian better. Ian was one of the union friends who encouraged me to consider going to Ruskin college and to apply for the Mikado scholarship. I am so grateful for this encouragement.

    Ian was a man of both bread and circuses fond of Jazz, whiskey, good food and funny jokes. Looking through my emails i was able to smile at a number of them I had saved. For many yeas Ian worked at the same place as my Partner and along with a group of friends associate with Colindale CPHL (now) the Centre for Infections a group met several times a year for the sole purpose of eating and drinking well. Ian was a key part of this Dining Club. I have fond memories of sitting in restaurants and pubs with Ian updating me on what was happenning in MSF, AMICUS, UNITE, the Labour Party – what was happening with people I used to know. Ian became the self styled Old Uncle Grumpy to the Dining Club’s kids. He will be missed by them.

    For Ian’s 60th Birthday we all went on a canal trip from Camden Lock. Afterwards we went to Marine Ices for a meal. Ian who did not like being the centre of attention was partly mortified but also happily shocked when the waiters came out with a birthday cake sang him happy birthday and clattered their trays in a hurray to him.

    Goodby old uncle grumpy – already sadly missed XXXXX

  14. Rita Legros says:

    I first met Ian in 1972 when I began a new job at the Central Public Health Laboratory, Colindale. At that time, CPHL was not unionised, so for the first few years, I knew him only as a “social animal” who used to join us for coffee and who, along with his friend Craig MacKintosh, organised a Christmas event we called the “Fuddle”. A great time was always had by all.

    When ASTMS began recruiting on site, Ian was very quickly seen as someone who had not just joined to protect his own interests–he was always at the forefront when he believed any member of staff was being unfairly treated. And he never sat back waiting for others to take on the active roles in, what many members felt, were the more mundane aspects of union membership like attending branch meetings.

    The union played a central role in his life. Unfortunately, there were many of us who felt Ian paid a high price for taking on such an active role at local level. When CPHL was reorganised and redundancies were mooted, it was no surprise that Ian’s name was at the top of the list. We were unable to affect the management decision that saw Ian leave after many years of excellent service to the Public Health Laboratory Service. It was an immense relief that Ian very quickly obtained a new post at the North Middlesex Hospital, one that would stretch him professionally and where his many skills would be appreciated (there were those at CPHL who had no idea of how capable and knowledgeable Ian was. Medical Physics Technician? Ideal chap to rewire this plug).

    The last time I saw Ian was a few months ago when a small group of us met up for a meal. Ian stomped in, scowl on his face, having had a difficult time finding the place. Mutter, mutter. Then it was all over and he was happy and jovial and a good time was had by all. Being both retired, we talked about meeting for lunch one day. It never happened. I deeply regret that now.

    Bye Ian.

    XXXXXXXX

  15. Michelle Owen says:

    I met Ian at Colindale 20 years ago he came to my notice as he seemed to be really gobby just like me. Some great debates were had. As the years went on i became less gobby and Ian had been pushed out. We would often bump into each other up the road where we lived nearby each other and sometimes went for a bevvy, in fact the last time this happened Ian was meeting Dennis Glynn and i tagged along, i cherish that time as it was to have been the last drink i shared with them both.

    May they both rest in peace and know they are greatly missed.

    Michelle Owen

  16. Bif says:

    Will be sadly missed, even if he was a cantankerous old fellow. He always took time to see the best in a person even if you couldn’t see it in yourself.
    Meetings, although shorter as he never was backward in expressing his opinion, will never be the same. I am honoured to have known him and only wish I had had more time to learn from and better understand him. Until next time brother man. B./

  17. William Perry says:

    This is sad news to me six years on. Ian Rez was an outstanding human being. Alan Talbot once described Ian as a person that he trusted totally. That just about sums him up. Sorry to have lost touch with you, Ian. RIP. Will.

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