Tribute from Cuba Solidarity Campaign

Rodney Bickerstaffe, a wonderful friend to the people of Cuba: See the full tribute at https://cuba-solidarity.org.uk/news/article/3496/rodney-bickerstaffe-a-wonderful-friend-to-the-people-of-cuba

On behalf of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign in the UK we would like to offer our deepest sympathy to Rodney’s family, colleagues and friends.

Rodney was a wonderful friend to the people of Cuba. As General Secretary of UNISON, he was one of the key protagonists in the Trade Union movement here that helped bring the issue of solidarity with Cuba in from the cold and to the forefront of trade unionism in this country. Working alongside his friends and fellow trade union leaders Ken Gill and Ken Cameron amongst others, Rodney made it clear that the issue of solidarity with the blockaded people of Cuba was an issue of principal that should not be stopped by right wing elements here and in the United States determined to keep up the ‘cold war’ divisions within the international workers movement.

When the Cuba Solidarity Campaign looked to broaden the Trade Union support in the early 1990s, Rodney played a critical role in supporting UNISON’s affiliation to the Campaign as well as assisting us immensely, helping open the doors to other trade unions who were wary of support for socialist Cuba. Rodney was General Secretary when he facilitated the first crucial UNISON delegation to Cuba to meet with Cuban trade unions. The ensuing report made clear that the Cuban Trade Unions within the CTC were truly representative and that the so called ‘independent trade unions’ were little more than a US sponsored sham. The report became a crucial reference point in defence of Cuba at a time when the United States stopped at nothing to demonise the island and its mass organisations.

Rodney supported the Cuban people and their struggle for national self-determination free from the constant aggression of US interference in their affairs. He was a patron of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign and spoke at many CSC events up and down the country. He championed the UNISON regions twinning with Cuban regions; he spoke in Trafalgar Square at the national Hands Off Cuba demonstrations; he chaired numerous CSC fringe meetings at the TUC; he supported the influential European Trade Unions for Cuba conference where trade unionists from 20 countries came together in London in support of Cuba, and he spoke at the US embassy protest vigils for freedom for the Miami Five who were imprisoned in the United States for between 13 and 16 years.

Rodney recognised the value of international solidarity and saw that Cuba offered a real alternative to the cuts and austerity led agenda which so marred the lives of millions of working people here and saw the ongoing assault on public sector provision.

Rodney will be missed by all of us at the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. His passing will be mourned in Cuba.

Rodney worked throughout his life for the betterment of humankind. Our tribute must be to strengthen our struggle for an end to the US Blockade and for Cuba’s right to follow their chosen path. In doing so we will continue to support Cuba’s right to develop their society built on human cooperation and solidarity, principals for which Rodney worked all his life.
Rob Miller, CSC Director
Bob Oram, CSC Executive Committee

CTC (Cuban TUC) statement:
With great sorrow, we have received the news of physical disappearance of the former General Secretary of UNISON and great friend of Cuba, Rodney Bickerstaffe.

During the most difficult moments of the Cuban Revolution, due to the collapse of the ex-socialist countries, when the USA government took advantage to tighten the US economic, financial and commercial blockade against Cuba, Rodney, together with friends and fellow trade union leaders such as Ken Gill and Ken Cameron among others, understood that it was very necessary to support Cuba, its revolution and its fight against the hard US policies imposed to the Cuban people.

Since that moment, very early in the 1990´s, he campaigned to involve the UK trade unions in this struggle, and not only the British people and workers but in Europe too.

He immediately encouraged UNISON and other unions to work with the CSC to face the US blockade and later to fight for the freedom of the Cuba 5, not only in UK but together with USA trade unions and friends.

He contributed to strengthen the links between our trade unions and regions which consolidated the friendship, the solidarity and cooperation among them.

Rodney believed in our people, in our system, in our socialism. Socialism that he realized it was an alternative to millions of workers all over the world to guarantee their rights of better living and working conditions.

International solidarity was part of his life, the struggle for workers´ defense was part of his life, and at the same time, he is part of the history of the Cuban trade union movement and Cuban workers in defending our decision to determine our future without any kind of US inherence, and our rights to continue building our socialism.

On behalf of the CTC of Cuba we would like to offer our deepest sympathy to Rodney’s family, colleagues and friends.

He will always be present in all our struggles, in our gains and in our hearts.
CENTRAL DE TRABAJADORES DE CUBA.

Statement from the Cuban Ambassador, Teresita Vicente:
We are very sad to have received the news of the passing of our great friend and former General Secretary of UNISON, Rodney Bickerstaffe.

During the difficult years of the Cuban Revolution, after the collapse of the ex-socialist countries, when the USA government took advantage to tighten the US economic, financial and commercial blockade against Cuba, Rodney, joined with us in the fight against the blockade policies imposed by the United States against our Cuban people. He campaigned to involve the trade unions in this struggle in Britain and across Europe too.

He encouraged UNISON and other trade unions to work with the Cuba Solidarity Campaign to campaign against the US blockade. He helped his union to make twinning links between UNISON regions and provinces of Cuba. This programme consolidated the friendship, solidarity and cooperation among them.

Rodney supported our country in our right to determine our future without any kind of US interference, and also our right to continue building our socialism. Defending workers wherever they were was part of his life and therefore international solidarity was also a part of his struggle.

The life and struggle of Rodney Bickerstaffe as with all those who fight for international solidarity, has become interconnected with the history of the Cuban trade union movement and Cuban workers in our revolutionary process.

On behalf of the Embassy and people of Cuba we would like to offer our deepest sympathy to Rodney’s family, friends and trade union colleagues.

He will always be present in all our struggles, in our victories, and in our hearts.