GMB Union sadly announced on 19th July that President Mary Turner passed away after a short illness.
Mary has been a trade union activist for over 60 years, and was a much loved and hugely respected member of the GMB Union.
First joining the Tailor and Garment Workers Union (aptly a union that would go on to join GMB), Mary worked at Jackson’s Tailors on Oxford Street, then went on to serve as Mother of Chapel in the print industry before taking time off to raise her children.
For 59 years, Mary was married to Denny, whom she had married within six weeks of meeting. They shared a wonderful life together, filled with love, humour and happiness. Denny sadly passed away in 2015.
As a trade unionist, Mary was a trailblazer who never took no for an answer. When she returned to work part –time in 1970, she started work as a dinner lady in Brent and quickly set about organising the female workers who were poorly paid, untrained and treated badly. It was also during this time that Mary developed a lifelong passion that she would campaign on for decades to come: free school meals. Having seen hungry kids and the stigma of those who had to queue separately for free school meals, Mary could not let that stand and she was instrumental in ensuring free school meals for kids became Labour party policy.
From feeding 600 young marchers during the people's March for Jobs in the 1980s, to fighting the National Front and leading, recruiting and supporting thousands of low paid workers, Mary has led our movement. In recognition of her incredible work, Mary was elected to GMB’s executive where upon her election, she served as the only woman out of 40 members.
In 1997 Mary was elected as President of GMB a position she has been re-elected into every year since. She has served on the Labour Party National Executive Committee, chairing the Party in 2004. In 2010, Mary was awarded an MBE, which was followed by a CBE in 2017.
Branch Secretary Gordon Glassford remembers:
In the nineties I was secretary of Corby Trades Union Council and it was part of my duties to arrange speakers for our annual May Day Rally. In 1997 just after labours victory in that years general election Mary shared the platform with two giants of the trade union movement: Jimmy Knapp of the National Union of Railwaymen and Ken Cameron of the Fire Brigades Union but it was Mary who impressed the most. She came across as what she was, someone whose only interest was to improve the lives of working people, particularly women. Whenever we speak of those times the two people who are talked about the most are Tony Benn and Mary Turner.
She will be a hard, if not impossible act to follow.