Since the sad news that our branch secretary and current UNISON President had passed away, we have been inundated with tributes & photos. Eric was a genuine lovely man who touched so many people right across the country and even across the world. We all knew within our branch just what Eric had done for the Ambulance Service but we did not know just how much he had done for others and only after reading some of the tributes to him is it clear just how many people he has touched over the years.
Dave Prentis – General Secretary – UNISON
Eric Roberts, a lifelong servant of our union, and of those in greatest need, has died after a brief struggle with cancer.
He was the President of UNISON, but more importantly he was a loyal and true friend to so many of us.
Born in Litherland, a proud Scouser and Liverpool fan, Eric was a man who lived enough – and had stories to tell – for more than one lifetime. From fixing drums for the Beatles, to wine waiter, baker and pots and pans seller – Eric eventually found his way to London. And one day, seeing an ambulance shooting down Oxford Street, he decided that’s what he’d like to do.
He had found his calling. For 42 years he served the London Ambulance Service with the passion and dedication for which he became well-known, and his union as branch secretary, NEC member and – this year – our President. He was the first ambulance person to be elected as UNISON President – something that I know was a source of immense pride to Eric, his branch, his family and everyone who knew him.
Eric wasn’t someone who sought out high office. Ambition wasn’t what drove him. Instead, it was an unstoppable desire – a need – to serve people and help people. To represent them and to do his best for them.
To Eric, everyone in the union and the ambulance service had a part to play – and every day he did his job to the best of his ability, and brought out the best in others at the same time. His loyalty to this union was as unquestionable and unswerving as his love for its members.
I will miss his honesty. I will miss his infectious personality. But most of all I will miss his friendship. Eric Roberts was a good man who gave so much to so many people. Eric said upon his election as President that UNISON was the “best union in the country”, but the truth is that Eric was the best of us.
Today, our thoughts are with his children Jack and Rhian, family, friends and colleagues, as our union mourns one of our biggest personalities, most loved friends and most powerful advocates for the values that sustain our union.
Eric Roberts – I will miss you.
Fionna Moore – Chief Executive – London Ambulance Service
Fionna said: “Eric has been a big part of our history and I know was immensely proud of being part of the Service and of this year being elected as President of UNISON – the first ambulance clinician to be appointed to that role.
“On a personal level, I have known and worked with him for 20 years and always respected his commitment to representing the concerns and interests of our staff.
“His death is a huge shock, and my thoughts are with his family, friends and all our colleagues, and especially his son Jack, an emergency ambulance crew member at Chase Farm and his daughter Rhian, who is a police constable in Hatfield.”
The Workers’ Central Union of Cuba
“Dear and beloved friends,
We have received with great sadness the news of the death, following a difficult illness, of our friend Eric Roberts, a great and long-standing friend of Cuba, Cuban workers and, especially, health workers and the workers of the ambulance service.
Eric dedicated almost all of his life to the London Ambulance Service, which became his passion after joining NUPE in north west London going onto become the first branch secretary for the UNISON London Ambulance Service branch.
During all this time he was a true defender of workers’ rights and whilst playing a leading role in UNISON in London he was elected UNISON President, the first leader from the ambulance service to be elected to this high position.
This has been a great loss for the Workers’ Central Union of Cuba, the National Union of Health Workers and the Cuban ambulance service (SIUM) and all Cuban workers given our historic links of friendship, solidarity and brotherhood that unite us.
During the difficult years of the ‘special period’ when our country fell into a deep economic crisis after the fall of the Socialist Bloc, Eric was one of the first to hold out the hand of friendship; the solidarity from him and the workers of the ambulance service meant that, despite the difficult circumstances, our people were able to keep benefitting from this vital service.
Later, he worked tirelessly to raise important donations to the Havana ambulance service through his work informing his members about the situation.
He was awarded the “Manuel Piti Fajardo” medal by the National Union of Health Workers in recognition of his efforts, his willpower and sincere friendship at the very time when we most needed this solidarity.
We have lost a great friend, a brother in the struggle, a comrade, a natural leader with a deep humanity who had so many projects to develop with us but which have yet to happen; nevertheless we will continue going forward and he will always join us in the struggle.
The Workers’ Central Union of Cuba and the National Union of Health Workers, on behalf of Cuban workers and their leadership, send their most sincere and heart-felt condolences to the leadership of UNISON, to his family, friends and British workers for the physical loss of Eric who will continue with us in the struggle, in the victories and in the hearts of all those who we defend, the best and most noble of causes to the benefit of the workers and our people.”
The Workers’ Central Union of Cuba
UNISON Humber Police
Ambulance today have written a tribute to Eric inside the latest edition of the quarterly magazine.
Declan Heneghan, the Editor of Ambulance Today writes ‘This edition of Ambulance Today is dedicated to the memory of our good friend Eric Roberts’
This edition is available to download in full as a PDF here: http://lasunison.co.uk/?mdocs-file=2578
or you can download the tribute separately here: http://lasunison.co.uk/?mdocs-file=2581
A tribute website has been setup by Kathy Jones and can be viewed here: http://eggonthemoon.com
There are many more tributes to Eric that can be viewed on the main UNISON website here – https://www.unison.org.uk/news/2016/11/remembering-eric-roberts/
In July 2010 Eric launched his own blog that in his own words was
here to inform members about life within the LAS from the Union’s perspective. As we enter a difficult political period for all of us, this Blog will help to keep members informed about what the Union is actually doing (as opposed to the half-truths and misrepresentations that are banded around). The Branch Secretary, as lead negotiator, along with the Branch Chair, Branch Officers and Senior Unison Sector Reps are all involved in day to day negotiations and consultations (as well as representing individual members) and this Blog will help to communicate and clarify that work.
Along with the serious side of the Union we also hope that this Blog will be a light-hearted approach and we hope you enjoy it.
The blog will remain online and we may develop this as an area for pictures and tributes.