Last week we received the tragic news that our friend and comrade Andy Smith had passed away unexpectedly.
Hailing from Middlesborough, Andy was an electrician and a leading figure in the North East during the Besna dispute of 2011-2012.
He was the representative for the North East on the National Construction Rank and File Committee. He was also a representative on the Construction Combine, which was set up after the Besna dispute to examine the construction national agreements and look at how they could be improved.
Andy put his heart and soul into fighting the Besna. He was instrumental in organising pickets, protests and meetings in the North East, as well as travelling all around the country attending other pickets and protests.
A couple of years ago Andy got the opportunity of a good job in the Shetlands which meant that he was working a leave rotation. Unfortunately, to his frustration this meant that he more often than not missed our rank and file meetings.
However, for the next meeting in Manchester this Saturday he was home on leave and indicated he was going to attend.
We as a group are devastated. Instead of enjoying Andy’s contributions to the meeting and sharing a drink with him afterwards we will now be paying our respects to him and having a collection for his family.
On a personal note, I will miss his chat over Facebook and over the phone. I will always remember the time when the rank and file meeting was in Liverpool. I was walking to Lime St with Andy to get his train and convinced him to go for one more pint.
The result? He missed his train, got a later one which only went as far as York and he had to wander about York until the morning before eventually getting home!
He was a great trade unionist and an absolute gem of a man with a big smile. We really had some great laughs.
He will be missed by so many people up and down Britain. My thoughts are with his family at this very difficult time.
If anyone deserves a big send-off then it is "Our Andy". His funeral will be on Tuesday 17th May at 3pm at Teesside Crematorium, Acklam Road, Middlesbrough, TS5 7HD.
Everyone is also invited to join the family in the Blue Bell pub afterwards.
There will also be a collection for Andy’s family at the Manchester meeting and further details on donations will be made available soon.
We owe it to Andy to continue the fight for direct employment and an end to blacklisting.
Goodbye Andy, until we meet again.