UNI Global Union’s outgoing general secretary, Philip Jennings, who has spent 18 years building up UNI to become a powerhouse for workers’ rights and a life dedicated to trade unionism, was lauded by the Congress, including his nominated successor, Christy Hoffman, and the current UNI Global president, Ann Selin as well as his loyal colleagues from all the regions.
Jennings’ final farewell was both passionate and emotional – it was also a final rallying call to stick to the task of breaking through and organisng workers. Points he also made strongly in his final keynote speech earlier in the day.
In front of a packed congress hall in Liverpool, Jennings spoke from the heart about his personal journey which had taken from Cardiff to Switzerland, and taken him to all the hot-spots of the world such as Colombia and Palestine. He truly became the global warrior for workers’ rights.
He was generous in his praise of the influence of others both professionally and privately, citing the immense influence of coming from such a close-knit Welsh family and sacrifice others had made for him, especially his mother who was present to see him conclude his successful career as a trade unionist.
“The life you have supported me in has been rich, deep and full of meaning. A life of purpose,” he said.
“A man has not begun to live until he can rise above the narrow confines of his own individual concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity,” he added quoting Martin Luther King.
Earlier, Hoffman had presented Jennings with the Freedom from Fear Award for a lifetime of achievement, giving a multitude of examples of how he has stood up for workers.
She said, “He was a champion of the anti-apartheid movement, he visited Korea even when the secret police told him to leave the country, he has made frequent trips to the West Bank, and he consoled the bereaved family of the young Leonidas, one of the many Colombian trade unionists assassinated for their belief in trade union rights.
Even more impressive is Philip’s courage in the war of ideas. Philip has never been afraid to jump into the ring whether it is with a corporate CEO who is furious about UNI’s critique, or even Fox News, the king of right wing media and union bashing. Many a time we have all enjoyed Philip’s fearless fight back in live television interviews in which he has hammered out our message in the face of outright aggression towards the union movement from all sides.”
Jennings encouraged the new leadership with Christy Hoffman at the helm to continue to be ambitious and said he had full confidence in them, “I will never stop believing. I know you will never stop believing. You will take this union flame to greater heights, fighting on to beat away the doubts of others.”
After joining with his family, as a special surprise the Liverpool Welsh Choral serenaded him with a selection of Welsh classics followed by perhaps the most apt song from the city of Liverpool, “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”