Ken Turner, who has died at the age of 72, after a short illness, was an official for the National Union of Seamen for many years, and later a Hull councillor, who had been due to retire at next week’s local elections.
The father of Hull East MP Karl Turner, he was a close friend of John Prescott whom he met when he first came to Hull in 1966.
It was on May 16 of that year that the NUS launched its first national strike since 1911. It aimed to secure higher wages and cut the working week from 56 to 40 hours. Widely supported by union members it caused great disruption to shipping – leading to attempts by P&O to sue Mr Turner for £1m damages.
Mr Prescott recalled: “He said to them: ‘If you sue me for £10,000, that’s my problem – but since you’re at £1m that’s your problem.’
“He was a model trade union and Labour man, always working for others.
“Every Christmas he organised a dinner for the pensioners and we had to go round the place looking to buy 50 chickens.
“I don’t think he had an enemy – everyone found him wonderful. I was elected in 1970 and Ken used to organise a lot of election programmes. He was a Labour man right through to the core – as he would say, ‘old Labour’.”
Mr Turner continued as an Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers official when the NUS amalgamated with the National Union of Railwaymen in 1980, and was also an official for the International Transport Workers’ Federation, which helps stranded seafarers.
Council leader Steve Brady, who discovered years after meeting Mr Turner that they had been born on the same day, August 3, 1945, at Hull Maternity Hospital, said he was “totally dependable and a real fighter for the rights of union members.” He paid tribute to Mr Turner, who represented the Sutton ward, as the instigator of Kingston Works Ltd, an arms-length company of the council which carries out council house repairs, which, he said, had been a huge success.