Neil Kearney, General Secretary of the International Textile, Garment, and Leather Workers Federation, died of a heart attack in the early hours of 19 November 2009 in Dhaki, Bangladesh. The trade union world was shocked by his premature demise. Condolences to his organisation and his family poured in from Global Unions and from trade unionists, employers, and labor rights activists throughout the world.
In a letter of condolences to the President of the ITGLWF, Mr. MANFRED SCHALLMEYER, the Chair of the Council of Global Unions, Anita Normark, General Secretary of Building and Work Workers’ International, described his extraordinary performance for working people with these words,
“Neil spoke for millions of workers who were deprived of the right to speak, to act, and to form unions. He carried the torch of liberty and social justice to any and all parts of this world – wherever workers were exploited. He fought any and all forms of tyranny, public or private.”
Kearney death came as a new Global Unions’ publication, “Getting the World To Work: Green Growth for Jobs and Social Justice”, was going to press containing an article which he submitted. Next to that contribution is a box with the following appreciation:
“As the words on this page testify Neil was one of the most powerful voices in the global labour movement calling for justice for the world’s most vulnerable workers. He devoted his life to the passionate defence of labour. He died in Bangladesh, one of many countries that became almost a second home over the last 21 years, as he roamed across the world in a ceaseless campaign to expose the cruelties faced by people working in poverty conditions. The Global Union movement has lost a passionate campaigner, a brilliant orator and a good friend, but his legacy and fighting spirit will continue to inspire us all”.