In memoriam: Jenny Thurston

In memoriam: Jenny Thurston

Prospect is sad to announce the death of Jenny Thurston, a former Deputy General Secretary of the union.

Jenny Thurston

Jenny retired in June 2005 after dedicating her life to the union for 36 years. She was Deputy General Secretary under first Bill Brett and then Paul Noon.

Jenny came to the-then Institution of Professional Civil Servants with a degree in geography from Bristol University. She joined in 1969 as a Senior Personal Secretary and then moved into research as an Assistant Research Officer.

She worked on pay issues in the research department until she became a negotiator in 1975. She made her name as a formidable negotiator in a succession of pitches and was soon promoted to Assistant Secretary for the heritage pitch where she helped to secure recognition for IPCS at several national museums and galleries.

In 1980 she became Assistant General Secretary for the Ministry of Defence pitch, a challenging proposition for a woman in what was then very much a male dominated environment.

“It took a couple of years and a lot of sideways-on looks before they got used to me,” she recalled.

At one meeting, when she took the seat reserved for the trade union lead, the official negotiator could not believe it was her and moved to another seat in order to sit opposite a more imposing male.

But Jenny proved she was more than capable of holding her own through a succession of battles over the privatisation of Royal Ordnance, dockyard closures and, at the end of the Cold War, the Options for Change defence review, which saw staff cuts of 18 per cent across the MoD.

During that period she found the time to have two children, Peter and Simon, the second born two and a half hours after she finished a lobby in the House of Lords over Royal Ordinance privatisation!

Prospect Deputy General Secretary Dai Hudd, who worked with Jenny for many years said: “Jenny had a tremendous capacity for work and commanded no less from her team. Her attention to detail was always impressive. I gained a lot from working with her, as did many others.”

In 1990 Jenny was promoted to Deputy General Secretary and took over the duties she was to handle for the rest of her career – civil service issues, in particular pay delegation, and responsibility for legal and personnel issues.

Jenny was always a keen supporter of expanding Prospect’s influence through association with other unions and welcomed the merger with the Engineers’ and Managers’ Association.

Jenny also served the wider union movement by serving on the general council of the Trades Union Congress and its women’s committee. In 2006, Jenny received an OBE for services to trade unions and the civil service.

She loved music – everything from Noel Coward to oratorios – and had sung on stage since the age of four – including a turn at an IPMS conference!

General Secretary Mike Clancy said “at a time when we are still fighting for genuine equality and equal pay, Jenny epitomised the trail blazing union woman who was a beacon for all”.

The family has requested that if you wish to attend the funeral or would like to make a donation in Jenny’s memory to contact Peter, her oldest son, on [email protected]