A TRADE union official described as a ‘passionate campaigner for people’s rights’ has died.
Alf Cotton lost his life at 5.30am last Friday (August 1) after a short illness, aged 82.
He was well known in Redditch as for 28 years he was the district secretary of the Redditch and Bromsgrove Engineering Union, making headlines for his tireless battle to improve the rights of workers.
His wife of 42 years Ellen told the Standard: “He won most battles he took on but this was one he could not win.”
Born in Albert Street, Alf went to Bridge Street School and won a place at the County High School – now Trinity High – but could not take it up as his parents could not afford the uniform.
His first job was putting spokes in bicycle wheels at the Royal Enfield Factory. But it was during his two years of service with the Armed Forces he developed his love for engineering.
In 1966 he became the first official to be elected to the position of the Redditch and Bromsgrove Engineering Union. Alf was a key part of national campaigns to reduce the working week from 42.5 hours to 40 and then 37.5 hours and actively supported the miners’ strikes during the 1980s. He also sat on industrial and benefits tribunals and brought one of the first cases of equal pay for women in the country.
On one occasion while working for High Duty Alloys he brought the factory to a standstill after being dismissed after falsely being accused of fraudulently clocking in. After marching his fellow workers through the town centre and a six week battle, bosses eventually reinstated him.
“He would take up the fight for anyone if he believed they were right,” Ellen added.
“Although he retired 16 years ago, a lot of people have come up to me since his death and said he was such a gentleman. He was part of Redditch’s history. He was Redditch born and bred and even though in recent years we had a home in Spain this was where his heart was and where he had his roots.”
The couple had a son, Michael and four grandchildren. Alf also had another child from a previous relationship.
His funeral takes place at 1.15pm at Redditch Crematorium on Tuesday (August 12).