‘Pick up and carry forward Sean’s work’

Unite salutes life’s work of ‘tireless champion’ and disabilities campaigner, Sean McGovern

Reading time: 4 min

UNITElive sadly has to report that Unite disability rights campaigner, rep and executive council (EC) member, Sean McGovern, passed away on May 6.

“Sean represented disabled workers on our EC – indeed, no-one else has ever done so in Unite’s history,” commented a saddened Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary.

Len described him as “a tireless champion for disabled people, and he ensured that their particular interests were never overlooked in any of our debates.  He was always well-briefed, and everyone from government ministers down knew from experience how persistent he could be in championing the rights of disabled workers.”

Sean also represented Unite on the General Council of the TUC, and chaired the TUC’s disability committee.  He was formerly chair of Unite’s own National Disabled Members Committee, was active in his region, London and Eastern, and was Disability Officer for the London Labour Party.  He poured all his energies into building our union and the movement, and we will cherish the memories of his comradeship and commitment.

Indeed Sean was a very well-known figure in the Labour and trade union movements. A frequent speaker at Labour, TUC, Unite conferences, as well as contributing at other allied campaigning events, Sean was a respected speaker and champion of people with disabilities.


Wearing his signature pork pie hat he often stole the show, campaigning for accessible transport and keeping ticket halls open. Most notably he was a vociferous and dedicated opponent of the hugely unjust Universal Credit system and the terrible and life-threatening effects it had on disabled people.

Sean made an indelible impression on everyone he met. “Sean was a firm friend, stalwart comrade and dedicated campaigner, standing up for disabled workers, trade union struggles and socialist principles,” said John McDonnell MP on hearing the news,

“It’s a tragic loss to our movement, but I was so proud to have known Sean. I send my deepest sympathy to his family and friends,” he added.

Unite national equalities and disabilities officer, Harish Patel, also paid tribute.

“I have known Sean for over many years and worked together on disability issues closely with him,” said Harish.

“He was the glue which held the National Disabled Members Committee together and focused in the cause for disabled members.”

Harish also pointed out that, “Sean always ensured that issues and concerns on disability featured in every aspect of the trade union and labour movement. The best example of his commitment features on his determination to ensure the TUC Disabled Workers Conference moved from Congress House to a more disability friendly venue – which was achieved, and indeed making sure that the commitment to scrap Universal Credit became Unite policy and featured in Labour Party manifesto.

“He has left a big vacuum in our National Committee which will take a big effort to fill.”

“We will mark Sean’s passing properly when it is possible to do so,” said Len McCluskey, “but the greatest memorial to his life and work must be to pick up and carry forward the cause of the rights of disabled workers which he championed to the last.”

WATCH: Sean speaking on accessible transport for all at the TUC in 2016

By Amanda Campbell @amanda_unite

Related Articles