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Fred Whitaker

Fred Whitaker, long-serving Branch Secretary of UNISON, died on 7 June 2010.

Born and bred in Leeds, Fred qualified as a plumber in the 1960s and went on to work for a number of firms in and outside Leeds. He also spent a period as a gas fitter during the major programme to convert the UK to North Sea gas. In 1991, Fred joined the Plumbing Section of the then Division of Works and Services on a short-term contract; his service during this period was described as exemplary and, when a permanent vacancy arose, Fred was promptly appointed to it.

Fred was elected a UNISON shop steward in late 1993. This was the beginning of what was to prove to be an expanding and unbroken association with trade union activity within the University, which saw Fred succeed Phil Booth as UNISON Branch Secretary at the end of 1997. He was also Health and Safety Officer for the Branch. Assiduous, compassionate and fair-minded, Fred was both a staunch advocate of the interests of his members and a strong believer in the virtues of reasoned discussion and dialogue. In the mid-1990s, he was instrumental in the development of a pioneering agreement between the University and UNISON on the introduction of the R2L (Return to Learn) scheme, which provided opportunities for staff with few or no formal qualifications to be released during working time in order to develop new skills. With his keen interest in health and safety matters, he was one of the architects of the landmark agreement in 2008 which recognised managers and unions as equal partners in safeguarding the health and safety of all those within the University. Fred served as an elected member of the Council from 1997 to 2003, and was also a member of the Court until 2001. Freds many outstanding personal and professional qualities, not least his unassuming good nature, approachability, generosity of spirit and dry sense of humour, were such as to make him universally liked and respected.

Away from the University, Freds enthusiasms embraced jazz and rugby league (Leeds Rhinos). A legacy of his art school days, he was also a very talented cartoonist.

Fred is survived by his partner, Janet.

Published: 11 June 2010