One of Britain’s most powerful and militant trade union leaders, Bob Crow, who led strikes that shut down the London Tube on numerous occasions, died yesterday at the age of 52.
A colourful, left-wing Londoner with a dog called Castro, Crow had been general secretary of the RMT transport union since 2002.
He was constantly involved in disputes and campaigns on behalf of his 80,000 members, winning the admiration of transport workers – and the hatred of many commuters.
“It is with the deepest regret that RMT has to confirm that our general secretary Bob Crow sadly passed away in the hours of this morning,” the union said.
Crow, who had one daughter, died in a hospital near his home in east London after suffering a massive heart attack, the Evening Standard newspaper reported.
Something of a working-class hero, Crow left school at 16 and worked on the railways before joining the management of the RMT, promising always to do the “very best” for his members. He secured good salaries and conditions for them through hard-nosed negotiating tactics including strikes, most recently last month when parts of the Underground network in the capital were shut down for 48 hours.
“Bob Crow was admired by his members and feared by employers, which is exactly how he liked it,” said Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA rail union, which joined last month’s strike.
“It was a privilege to campaign and fight alongside him because he never gave an inch.”
Crow still lived in local authority housing despite his £145,000 (HK$1.8million) annual pay and pensions package – two facts which his critics regularly used against him.
In his final interview, broadcast on BBC radio on Monday evening, Crow defended his salary, saying: “I think I’m worth it. Our members, in the main, have had pay rises every year right the way through austerity. They’ve got good pensions, good holidays – they could be better.”