Britain’s biggest organisation of older people, the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) has paid tribute to one of its former presidents, Rodney Bickerstaffe who has died today. Bickerstaffe replaced Jack Jones, the Transport and General Workers’ Union leader as the NPC’s president in 2001 and served for four years, during which time he regularly appeared in the media advocating for better state pensions and care. One of his personal achievements was to challenge the government over the rules which reduced an individual’s state pension if they were in hospital for more than six weeks. The rules were later changed to 52 weeks.
Jan Shortt (double t), NPC general secretary said: “Taking over from Jack Jones was no easy job, but Rodney always felt as home. Rodney was a passionate advocate for Britain’s older people, and often took on the Labour government over issues which he felt were wrong such as the refusal to restore the link between the state pension and earnings, and the way in which social care was means-tested. He was extremely funny and filled the room with his enthusiasm for life. He often used to begin his speeches by saying that when he started as a young trade union official, he turned up to a refuse collectors dispute with a brand new brief case and was met with laughter when he told the workers his name was Rodney. In later years he used to say “I don’t care what they call us, so long as we get a decent state pension”. He was one of the labour movement’s greats and the NPC is proud to have had the benefit of his skills, intellect and humour.”