A CONGREGATION of thousands is expected to gather at St Paul’s Cathedral today to pay tribute to long-serving GMB president Mary Turner.
Ms Turner, who died last year aged 79, is thought to be the first trade unionist to be honoured with a service at the cathedral.
Born in Tipperary, Ms Turner became a school catering worker and workplace rep in north London. She successfully campaigned for universal free school meals and was a key figure in the 1981 People’s March for Jobs.
Ms Turner was elected to Labour’s national executive committee in 1995 and became president of the GMB in 1997. She held both offices until her death.
GMB leader Tim Roache said: “Our Mary was a true giant of the trade union movement and the beating heart of GMB for decades.
“This memorial reflects the great legacy she leaves as a tireless defender of working people. It is hugely deserved.
“Be it fighting for dinner supervisors in Brent, for hungry kids to have free school lunches, for pensions, for young people or taking on the National Front, Mary led our movement.”
Ms Turner was known for her tenacious wit when chairing GMB annual congresses and for her ferocity in cross-examining Labour leaders at national executive committee meetings.
GMB London regional secretary Warren Kenny added: “Mary was a tenacious and unflappable trade unionist, combining toughness and care. She soared through against all the odds.
“She was known throughout the labour movement for her indomitable stamina, kindness and compassion.”
Mourners will gather at 11am this morning for the service.
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