Former general secretary of UCATT and chair of the CSCS card scheme dies suddenly in hospital aged 66

Tony Blair and John Prescott have led tributes to former UCATT general secretary George Brumwell, who died in hospital on Tuesday after a short illness, aged 66. Brumwell was a UCATT official for 35 years and had been head of the union for 13 years. He retired in 2004 and moved on to become chairman of the CSCS card scheme.

The prime minister said: “George was a great fighter for safety in the construction industry. His years of campaigning have resulted in countless lives being saved and injuries being avoided. His death is a loss to the campaigns to which he devoted a large part of his life. His family and friends have my deepest condolences at this very sad time.”

Deputy prime minister John Prescott added: “George was a great servant to the trade union and labour movements who always acted with the members’ best interests at heart. His humour and good counsel will be greatly missed.”

As UCATT general secretary, Brumwell led the push for improved pay and conditions for workers, and helped mastermind groundbreaking pay deals on Heathrow Terminal 5. He received a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in 2003 for his services to construction.

His years of campaigning have resulted in countless lives being saved

Tony Blair

After retiring in 2004, he continued to work actively in the industry, becoming chairman of the CSCS scheme and sitting on the board of occupational health body Constructing Better Health.

Alan Ritchie, who took over from Brumwell as UCATT general secretary, said: “George’s legacy will be two-fold: he leaves a strong, independent, construction-based union, and his tireless work has improved the health and safety of workers in the UK. He was a giant of the trade union movement.”

George Brumwell is survived by wife, Dot, a son and four daughters.

‘A tremendous force for good’

Graham Watts, chief executive of the Construction Industry Council
George had a store of stories about his flirtations with power and influence and about some of the many socialist politicians that he met from all over the world: in his own way and in terms of making a difference, he was just as big as any of them. He was always fair and responsible as a union leader.
Bob Blackman, T&G national construction officer
George contributed a massive amount to the industry and in particular to the Respect for People agenda. He was excited about his role as chairman of the CSCS scheme; he was full of life and his death is even more tragic given he was only a year into his retirement.
Peter Rogers, managing director of Stanhope
George was one of the great industry people. He had an inherent love of construction and devoted a huge amount of time to bettering the industry. He rattled a few cages and could stamp his feet when necessary, but behind that was a genuine and honourable person. He will be missed.
Lawrence Waterman, project director of Constructing Better Health
George was a motivator and an inspirer. He never lost sight of the importance of health and safety: that he was ever described as “retired” was a bit of a joke. I feel nothing but admiration for what he achieved.
Roger Evans, deputy chief executive at Constructing Excellence
George was a giant in the industry, a tremendous force for good. He wore his heart on his sleeve and made a huge difference to the causes of construction workers and safety. I’d known him for 15 years, and I will miss him. He was a great guy.
Ian Davis, director general of the Federation of Master Builders
“I have known George for many years. Over the last two years we worked together closely on several health, safety and training issues. George was a colourful character and a plain speaker. You knew you could have a good row with him and there were no grudges kept and no personal animosity. I can’t believe he’s gone.”