The end of an era – colleagues pay tribute to John Lyons

The end of an era – colleagues pay tribute to John Lyons

Trade union colleagues pay tribute to John Lyons, former leader of the Engineers' and Managers' Association

John Lyons. Quietly spoken, unfailingly polite and gentlemanly; a formidable negotiator with a hidden steely will; consistent long term advocate of a balanced energy policy including both nuclear and coal generation; a kind and supportive friend to lay representatives; admired and respected by staff, members and throughout the trade union movement.

I knew John from soon after he was appointed as General Secretary of the EPEA at a time when work was needed to ensure we were a united union – despite our disparate needs with members in research, distribution, generation and supply.

He was a frequent visitor to Berkeley Labs, supporting our negotiations for fair pay and a structure which recognised everyone’s contribution.

He was particularly supportive when I attended my first annual delegate conference, the first and only woman, and made my maiden speech in support of nuclear power – not a universally popular subject at that time.

We worked closely when I rose in the union ranks, first as a divisional representative and eventually on the national executive.

John steered us through our transfer from ‘Electrical Power Engineers’ to ‘Engineers and Managers’ and led the campaign against privatisation of the electricity industry at least until it became a political issue.

When privatisation was happening anyway, he was robust in protecting the terms and conditions of members, in particular being influential in having members’ pension rights written into the legislation.

My personal memories of John include attending meetings of the European Social Committee in Brussels and being part of a union delegation to Kiev to talk to workers from the destroyed Chernobyl nuclear reactor.

John retired from the EMA (but not from being an industry advocate) shortly before I was elected President but kept in touch.

He attended my MBE celebration party and I still have numerous letters of congratulation in his incredibly neat but tiny handwriting.

John was a huge influence on my life, both as a trade unionist and a friend. He will be much missed by all who knew him.

Jackie Longworth, EMA past President.

“After leaving Cambridge, John worked in the Research Department of the Post Office Engineering Union before becoming an Assistant Secretary in the IPCS in 1957.

“He was promoted to Deputy General Secretary in 1966 and was a leading member of the headquarters team until 1973 when he was appointed General Secretary of the EMA.

“John was a master of the subjects for which he was responsible and an able negotiator. He was unfailingly helpful to colleagues and members.”

Bill McCall, former IPMS General Secretary

“The end of an era” is a phrase that I heard repeated so many times when Pam and I attended John Lyons’ funeral service at Golders Hill on 7 June.

There can be no truer expression when paying tribute to John Lyons. John was so unique with his brilliant intellect and humble yet steely manner witnessed throughout his service to the EPEA/EMA. But most of all he was a true gentleman and a wonderful friend.

His four children Kate, Roddy, Jane and Matthew must be extremely proud of their lovely father.

John was a man of immense stature. His quietly-spoken manner served only to disguise his 'steely' determination to succeed, and those who had to deal with him on the 'on the other side of the table' found him a formidable negotiator!

Those members who were employed in the industry during John's 'reign' will be eternally grateful for his achievements on their behalf such as 'The Trained Engineer Agreement' which was a brilliant achievement which provided a career path for thousands of third engineers through to second engineer.

And of course there was the industry-wide job evaluation scheme which ensured that every single post was evaluated against agreed criteria.

John's lasting memorial was the protection he fought so hard to secure as we moved into the privatisation of the industry. His lasting legacy will be of having members’ pension rights written into the legislation.

John was a dear friend and we always kept in touch after we had retired. Our common bond was our love of cricket. I treasure the memories of times spent with John when we attended cricket matches at Moreton in the Marsh and Cheltenham, he never failed to write and say how much he had had enjoyed those days.

John had a major influence on my trade union 'life' throughout my career and I am proud to say he was a valued friend and he will be missed so much by everyone who knew him.

Roger Neck (EPEA President 1990/91)

I first met John when I was interviewed for the role of Area Secretary of the EMA in summer 1989, joining later that year. To this day, I reckon I only got the job because I mentioned cricket and my memory was of John lighting up and paying attention to my assessment of England’s immediate prospects!

As a young full-time officer, it was quite something to be working for a giant of the trade union movement and his presence was palpable. He had the necesssary ‘look’ when he was questioning the wisdom of your arguments and his own style of motivation. You just didn’t want to let him down.

I can recall a difficult meeting with an energy company that he attended at my request at a difficult juncture in negoatiations. I was struck by the fact that the management team were genuinely in awe of him. His quiet style, combined with steely determination was something to behold.

He was an inspiration with his vision of a politically independent trade union offering professional services to members. He championed engineering and was a distinctive voice in the TUC.

I can also recall reading the NJB agreement for the first time and thinking ‘how did they negotiate that?’ That agreement and much more was John’s legacy and we are all somewhat in his shadow as a result of his achievements.

Mike Clancy, General Secretary