Members mourn death of Yorkshire trades union activist

Ian McDonald.
Ian McDonald.
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A Yorkshire trades union activist has died just days before he was due to be honoured for a lifetime’s commitment to the labour movement.

Ian McDonald won the respect of thousands of working people in Leeds and the Yorkshire region.

He was a bus driver in Leeds, and a leading activist in the Transport and General Workers’ Union (TGWU) which later became part of Unite.

He was a lay official of the union at local, regional and national level.

He also held key roles in the wider trades union movement, including that of secretary of Leeds Trades Union Council, and was a member of the executive, and vice-chairman, of Yorkshire and the Humber region of the Trades Union Congress.

Mr McDonald was a colourful and popular character, famed for the loudness of his Hawaiian shirts, and for his outrageous cross-dressing in support of the annual Leeds Pride celebrations. His humour was combined with a passionate belief in equality and respect.

Courage

As secretary of Leeds Trades Union Council he helped ensure that the city’s annual May Day march and rally were maintained, despite falling attendances as the trades union movement suffered setbacks in the 1980s and 1990s, when membership nationally fell from 13m to less than 7m.

Mr McDonald was secretary of Leeds busworkers’ branch of the TGWU when the services were publicly-owned, and later when they were operated by First Bus.

He was known as a tough negotiator, helping his members win some of the industry’s best pay and working conditions.

Mr McDonald was an active anti-racist and anti-fascist. His courage and activities once led to a violent attack on his Leeds home by extremists, and to his appearance on the far-right website Redwatch, which targets opponents of racism and fascism.

Mr McDonald was diagnosed with cancer and died at Wheatfields hospice on Friday, October 7.

He was to have received his union’s Gold Badge this month.

Mr McDonald was married to Sabine, and had two daughters, Tracey and Shuna, from a previous marriage.

He is also survived by his father and a sister.

Union banners will be raised at his funeral which takes place at 3 pm on Monday at Rawdon.

Sarah Sordy of Mars Petcare in Birstall

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