by Greg Sachno (Unite Education NI)
The recent passing of Unite representative Alan Teague at the premature age of 41 has come as a blow to his family and allthose who knew him in Unite and the wider trade union movement.
Alan worked for NI Electricity Networks and was a long-standing rep. I first met him on the shop stewards’ induction course on which he was enrolled and I was tutoring, what I noticed about Alan from the outset was his lack of chatter.Alan was a listener: he took in what was being said and noted it. I remember wandering around the room to see what he had written in his course notes and thinking this lad’s good.
Over time Alan participated more and more in the wider union activities. He went on to do his Keele certificate in industrial relations and was considering doing a masters in employment law. I also persuaded him to develop his tutoring ability and he became one of the regions tutors, and along with DavyThompson, I encouraged him to undertake his own course, which he did, a workplace reps stage 1 in the Derry/Londonderry office.
Alan was a member of his regional industrial sector committees and was heavily involved in the branch. He was in the words of his full-time officer Joanne McWilliams a ‘go to’rep. Alan was trusted, disciplined and organised. He also had an astute political analysis, a class consciousness based on his own experience working in industry and honed by his role in the union. He actively participated in the wider workings of the union and when in the Belfast office he regularly dropped by to talk to the campaigns and communications officer, Donal O’Cofaigh, about current campaigns and the union’s political priorities.
On the evening he died, Davy Kettyles of the regional organising unit spoke to him and after discussing union matters the conversation then drifted onto the Europeanchampionships.
At his funeral a company representative from the human resources department of NIEN told me that they recognised that Alan was a first-rate representative of our union because when he spoke, he was doing so from a position of
“understanding his role and responsibility, he was one of the best trade union representatives he had ever dealt with…he was also an incredibly nice guy”.
Alan participated in union education classes up to his death. Iwould invite him onto the class via zoom to talk about the role of the representative to our induction stewards. Alan would do his video contribution via his phone from NI Electric with the Unite flag as a backdrop. He spoke eloquently and clearly on the role of the rep and the challenges they faced. Fromsomebody who said very little when he turned up in the education room on his first class he had grown in confidence and stature.
Alan was highly thought off by the Regional Secretary Jackie Pollock and indeed across the entire union in Ireland for his work on behalf of our members.
There is no doubt in my mind that Alan would have played a wider role in the union, in education, as an activist and most likely as full time official. I have been a tutor for nearly 30 years very rarely have I seen somebody of Alan’s capabilities:an embryonic worker-intellectual whose potential has been tragically ended at such a young age. He was funny with an acerbic wit; he will be missed by his family and friends and all of us at unite. He was simply a lovely lad.