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Tributes paid to ex-union leader
Updated 3:52pm Thursday 1st May 2014 in News
Tributes have been paid to a dedicated union leader who fought tirelessly to improve the lives of council workers.
Former council leaders and union colleagues have paid glowing tributes to former GMB rep Eddie Blake.
Mr Blake became the first full-time GMB officer based in Brighton when they opened in Beaconsfield Road in the late 1970s, having previously served the GMWU.
He played a leading role in the bin disputes during his time and was known for his deft negotiating skills before retiring in 1991.
GMB branch secretary Mark Turner said Mr Blake taught him “everything I know”.
He said: “He was a very good officer, very well known and very popular.
“When I got involved in the trade union movement in the early 80s he was my mentor and I learned a lot from him, much more than you could learn in a classroom.
“A lot of workers in Brighton and East Sussex owed him a lot for what he did for them.
“He will be missed.”
Lord Bassam, former leader of Brighton Borough Council, described Mr Blake as a “great character”.
He added: “I can pay no higher tribute than to say he genuinely represented the people he spoke for and he did so without fear or favour.
“He was a no frills guy from an honest working-class background, I always knew I could trust Eddie and take him at face value.
“I remember one occasion during my 1987 election campaign when we were being followed by the local TV channel who were trying to suggest our campaign was working into a fury.
“All of a sudden, Eddie’s car became enveloped in steam, the radiator had given out and he was fanning the car with his jacket with the bonnet up.
“I think it went on the TV with the headline Labour campaign blows up.”
Former Brighton Pavilion MP and leader of Brighton Borough Council David Lepper said he remembered Mr Blake fondly for his passionate support during election campaigns.
He said: “He wasn’t just about talking support for Labour, he was quite willing to roll his sleeves up for the cause.”
Mr Blake died at Worthing Hospital on April 11 due to pneumonia, and his funeral was held at Worthing Crematorium last Friday.
He is survived by his wife Sheila, sons David and Stuart and granddaughters Ella and Poppy.
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