Trainee to Head Office

Rodney BickerstaffeFollowing his mum’s letter to Sydney Hill and an exchange of letters with the General Secretary, in which Rodney said “I would be happy to be in a kind of apprenticeship in whatever capacity my effort and qualifications could be put to best use”, an interview was arranged.

He was interviewed by Sydney Hill on the 28th June 1966 in Divisional Organiser Bill Gregory’s office in Leeds and, subsequently, was offered the post of Trainee Area Officer in that Division to begin on 18th July.

He passed his driving test at the second attempt on the 9th November and Bill, wanting him mobile in a a recruitment campaign, wrote to the General Secretary requesting a car for Rodney but it was February 1967 before he was fully mobile.

Keen to make an impression he submitted an article for the Union’s Journal in June 1967. The response from Bernard Dix is quite amusing. Encouraging Rodney he then added, “I was saddened to note, however, that the covering letter addressed me as ‘Dear Bro.’ – I can never decide whether this is an abbreviation for Brontosaurus or Brobdingnagian. I discarded the use of the term ‘Brother’ when George Brown began to use it as a prelude to verbal assassination on television.”

On the 20th March 1968 the now new General Secretary, Alan Fisher, wrote to Bill Gregory acknowledging that Bill wanted Rodney to be appointed to replace Area Officer J.W.Weston who was retiring and, subsequently, agreed to the appointment.

Clearly keen to advance within the union he applied for the post of Deputy Divisional Officer in the South West Division in August 1971 but was unsuccessful with Frank Huff the successful candidate.

Not discouraged by this just four months later he applied for the post of Assistant National Officer but, once again, was unsuccessful.

In October 1974 he was appointed Deputy Divisional Officer in the North Eastern Division. This post would be short lived as, following the Warwick Report “Organisation & Change in NUPE” in 1974, the North Eastern Division would be re-organised and subsumed into a Northern Division and a Yorkshire & Humberside Division.

Applications were then invited for the posts of Divisional Officer and two Assistant Divisional Officers for the new Northern Division, operative from 1st June 1975. Rodney was appointed Divisional Officer and Tom Sawyer was appointed Assistant Divisional Officer Area One.

They were popular officers with both members and colleagues, with substantial evidence of this in the archives at Warwick University. Rodney must also have made an impression on senior officers at Head Office and in October 1976 he was appointed National Officer for Local Government.

Four years later Alan Fisher informed the Executive Council of his intention to retire in 1982 and the process of appointing a new General Secretary began.

Biography by Jim Sutherland

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