When London Mayor Boris Johnson said: “I’m shocked. Bob Crow was a fighter and a man of character…” he was referring to Robert Crow, General Secretary of the National Union of Rail and Maritime Workers (RMT), who has died aged 52.
The grandson of an East End boxer, Bob Crow was born in Shadwell, East London, on 13 June 1961.
At 16 he left school to join London Transport as a member of a rail-fixing and tree-felling team and later joined the trade union movement at the age of 19 when he was involved in a dispute at his place of work.
In 1983 Mr. Crow was elected as a union representative of the National Union of Railwaymen and then became National Official for track workers in 1985.
The 1980s were formidable years for the trade union movement as it engaged in major industrial battles with Margaret Thatcher’s government. During this period, Bob Crow continued to demonstrate his formidable union-leadership qualities in his trade union activities.
In 1990 the National Union of Railwaymen merged with the Seamen’s Union to form the National Union of Rail and Maritime Workers (RMT).
Bob Crow was elected General Secretary of the RMT in 2002. With this he became leader of the trade union for workers employed in all aspects of transport, shipping, and Offshore sectors.
The role of a trade union is to protect the working rights of its members and to act in their best interest at all times. Under Mr Crow’s leadership the RMT fought many battles with various employers, particularly in London where the union has been opposed to proposed changes to public transport services.
An outspoken and charismatic trade unionist, Bob Crow was arguably the most prominent trade union leader of his generation. In the European Parliamentary election of 2009 he stood for election on a ‘No2EU’ ticket and polled 17,758 votes across London.
Bob Crow was also a controversial figure and members of the public were often caught up in his union’s clashes with transport employers.
However, in a period of overall decline in union membership, under Mr Crow’s leadership the RMT’s membership grew steadily to its current number of just over 80,000.
A patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Bob Crow was a dedicated Milwall FC fan with an interest in darts and meteorology. He lived in council accommodation all his life and never possessed a driving licence, taking pride in the fact that he only ever took public transport.
Bob Crow’s last media appearance was on Radio 4s PM programme on the evening before he died.
He is survived by his partner, Nicola Hoarau, a son and three daughters.
Feyi Raimi-Abraham is a legally qualified employee relations specialist and is currently training as a journalist. Passionate about art, Feyi promotes the arts through her blog Zaynnah Magazine. Previous Zaynnah Magazine interviewees include the artist El Anatsui, the radio presenter Rosemary Laryea, the Japan based afrobeat band Kingdom Afrocks, as well as the reggae artist Tarrus Riley. You can follow Feyi on Twitter @zayynah1.