A MUCH loved and respected trade union activist from County Durham has died, at the age of 90.

Dave Ayre, from Stanley Crook, was a union man from the age of 17 and worked tirelessly for decades supporting workers with fundraising and accident and illness claims to high-profile legal battles and memorial events.

After completing National Service, Mr Ayre was a bricklayer until he retired at 65.

In 1948, aged 17, he was sworn in as a member of Crook AUBTW union branch – later known as Crook UCATT UB145 – and later became branch secretary for the rest of his working life.

He lived by his father’s advice throughout his life - “Make sure you pay your union money and your rent – in that order – because if you don’t pay your union money, you’ll never be able to pay your rent.”

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Close friends said Mr Ayre never lectured and was always prepared to listen, looking after the best interests of his members, without financial reward, or favour and thanks to Dave many local building workers won claims for accidents and illness.

Mr Ayre supported the national health and safety campaign Hazards, was a leading member of the Construction Safety Campaign and helped organise International Workers Memorial Day to raise awareness of death and injury in the workplace.

He was also secretary of Wear Valley Trades Council for more than 25 years, helping to raise tens of thousands of pounds for workers in dispute or struggle, such as during the Miners' Strike 1984-1985, when he personally raised thousands of pounds, including large donations from trade unions in France and Germany.

Having played a key role in the Building Workers Strike of 1972, Mr Ayre was blacklisted by employers and denied work as a result. He helped organise the national campaign against blacklisting which was subsequently declared illegal by the High Court and he and many other trade unionists in the building industry won compensation.

He also fought for almost 50 years to get the convictions overturned for building workers Des Warren and builder turned actor Ricky Tomlinson, the so-called Shrewsbury Two, who were jailed following the 1972 building workers' strike, and he co-authored The Flying Pickets – a book about the 1972 builders’ strike and the Shrewsbury trials.

Friend John Gilmore said: “Dave was an avid life-long learner with the Open University whilst working as a bricklayer and would often be found completing his essays in the bait cabin.

“He was fascinated by sociology, psychology and labour history and a genuine working class intellectual. He was also passionate about art and music, particularly abstract expressionism and Jazz.

“Furthermore, he had been an accomplished athlete in his youth, both as a cyclist and cross-country runner and later in life he was a keen fell walker. However, he will be mostly remembered as a keen cyclist by local people as he climbed the steep Billy Row Bank on his push bike without gears until he was past the age of 80."

Friend Kathryne Wray added: “Dave never sought the limelight, never looked for advancement or promotion and was quite prepared to allow others to take undeserved credit for Dave's hard work.

“Moreover, Dave never gave up and despite being in his late 80s he continued to support workers in dispute and never missed a 6am picket line during the 30 weeklong 2015 Teesside Construction Activists’ #PayTheRate campaign and put his heart and soul into winning justice for the Durham Teaching Assistants in their dispute with Durham County Council.

“Furthermore, on his 90th birthday in his care-home he was asked to send a message to his friends and comrades. Dave said, 'keep up the struggle'.”

Together, Kathryne and John added: “Dave was truly an internationalist and a man of the people. He dedicated his life to help others.

“His sharp political mind and mischievous sense of humour gained him many friends and some foes, but he will always be remembered with great affection by trade unionists. He was a great teacher, friend and an inspiration to future generations.”


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