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unite Life


BY RYAN FLETCHER


100 per cent Unite


While Richard Beddoes leads a bin workers’ strike, daughter Emilia helps out


Emilia Beddoes often hears her dad, Richard, on the phone to Birmingham refuse workers who need his help.


Unlike most teenagers, the thirteen-year-old wants to know about her dad’s work – especially after he began leading this summer’s strike against Birmingham City Council’s attempts to cut the jobs of more than a 100 bin workers.


“Ever since I became convenor in 2014, Emilia’s taken an interest. She even offers solutions to the problems she’s heard me talking about,” said Richard, 50.


“When I did my employment law diploma I did a case study exercise about someone being disciplined at work. She wanted to have a look, so I said ‘go on you have a go’. To my astonishment she absolutely nailed it.”


During the strike – which drew letters of solidarity from trade unionists in Germany, Spain, Greece, Brazil and Argentina as well as the Labour leadership – Emilia joined her dad on the picket lines and had “a crack with the lads”.


She was at the rally in support of the refuse workers in Birmingham’s Victoria Square and also travelled to September’s TUC conference with Richard and a group of the strikers.


As a result of her travels in support of the strike, Emilia has met Len McCluskey a number of times. “She jokes she’s bigger friends with Len than I am,” laughed Richard.


34 uniteWORKS Autumn 2017 Find outmore HERE


At the moment Emilia is deciding between becoming a solicitor, inspired by her dad’s activism, or a mid-wife, which was the career her mum, Patricia, always wanted to follow. Devastatingly, Patricia, who was together with Richard for a quarter of a century, died aged just 44 from a heart attack in 2013.


“Emilia was nine at the time and as a single dad there was no way I could get to work at half-five in the morning. The convenor position was vacant. My fellow reps understood my plight and had confidence that I could do the position well, so I was put forward,” Richard explained.


Richard makes no bones about the fact that becoming convenor helped him keep his and Emilia’s world together when it was falling apart.


“I realised that I had to apply myself 100 per cent to the role,” he said. “Not only because it’s a lot of responsibility and there’s a lot of faith in you to fulfil it, but for the betterment of myself and my daughter.”


Since then Richard has paid back the trust put into him by his members many times over, especially during his exceptional leadership of the recent strike.


“Someone said it was like I’d found the union and the union had found me – I thought that was quite apt,” he explained. There’s no doubt that Patricia would be extremely proud of both Emilia and Richard.


Mark Thomas


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