George Durack, the trade unionist who said: ‘We won’t sell jobs’
07 September, 2018
• SAD to hear George Durack is dead, (Islington campaigner and former councillor George Durack dies aged 94, September 3).
He was, I think, the last surviving member of an exceptional generation of local activists, many of whom saw service during World War II or national service afterwards. I rubbed shoulders with him in the 1970s and 80s when we were both active in what was then the Union of Post Office Workers.
At a local level, union activity mainly involved working with management to ensure that the quality of the postal service and working conditions was maintained. This ended with the coming of the Thatcher government and the arrival in the postal service of aggressive managers, whose mantra was “It’s management’s right to manage”.
They could have added: “And damn the consequences.” Within a few years a great service had all but collapsed. Most union branches were seduced by the IWM bonus scheme, which allowed postal workers to earn up to 50 per cent of their weekly wage as an additional bonus, provided they agreed to substantial cuts to jobs and the quality of service.
As secretary of the NWDO branch covering NW1 to NW11, with several hundred members and facing tremendous pressure to conform, George refused to go along with the new order and no jobs were sold. “These jobs are not ours to sell,” he told a national union conference. “They belong to future postal workers, those youngsters who are now in school.”
He was subject to compulsory retirement at 65, and I assumed that would be the last I’d hear of him. It wasn’t. For almost another 30 years his name frequently popped up in connection with numerous campaigns and social activities.
George Durack may be dead, but his spirit and his legacy will live on.