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Frank Cousins; Union Leader

June 14, 1986|From Times Wire Services

CHESTERFIELD, England — Frank Cousins, the burly trade union leader who served two stormy years as Britain's transport minister in the 1960s, died in a hospital of an apparent heart attack Wednesday.

Cousins, 81, a former miner and truck driver, served as a member of Parliament and was in Prime Minister Harold Wilson's Labor government from 1964 to 1966. He resigned to protest a government-backed law freezing incomes and prices and outlawing some strikes.

From 1956 to 1969, he led one of Britain's most powerful unions, the Transport and General Workers Union, with 1.25 million members. He was remembered as much for the strikes he led as for those he prevented.

Cousin's philosophy was that strikes were a weapon of last resort. His mediation prevented potentially disruptive strikes by dock workers in Southampton and truckers delivering fruit and vegetables to London markets.

In 1958, however, Cousins kept London bus workers off their jobs for seven weeks. Political observers said the strike lost Labor one million votes in the crushing election defeat it suffered the following year.

Cousins spent the years after his 1969 retirement as a commentator on labor affairs and an arbitrator in industrial disputes.

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