Moderate UK trade union chief who scaled heights of CPSA

Kate Losinska: Born: October 5th, 1922; Died: October 16th, 2013

Kate Losinska

Kate Losinska

Sat, Oct 26, 2013, 11:44

Kate Losinska, who has died after a long illness in her adopted home county of Limerick, was the daughter of Irish parents and one of the most prominent figures on the moderate wing of the British trade union movement. That was as president of the largest union in the United Kingdom civil service between 1974 and 1985, the Civil and Public Services Association (CPSA).

She belonged to an era after the second World War when there was a strong Catholic influence in the British trade union movement. The Communist Party was a force in the unions and Catholic unionists organised to counter it.

Energetic battler
The years of her CPSA presidency were a time of battles between left-wing and moderate factions in the unions.

Opponents recognised Losinska as one of the most energetic battlers on the moderate side. That was shown after she lost the union presidency in 1985. The following year she bounced back to be elected senior vice-president, and to the general council of the Trades Union Congress.

The second half of her union presidency coincided with the Tory government of Margaret Thatcher.

She vexed Thatcher and pleasantly surprised union opponents by supporting strikes against Thatcher’s 1984 ban on trade union membership in Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

Losinska was born Kathleen Mary Conway in the London suburb of Croydon, in October 1922, to James Conway, a soldier from the Killorglin area of Kerry, and his wife Dorothy, née Hill, a native of Newry. She was the youngest of six children, and only girl. She attended primary school locally, then Selhurst Grammar School for Girls.

Escaped the Blitz
At 18 she joined the civil service as a clerk. Her department was evacuated from London to Blackpool, Lancashire, to escape the Blitz.

In Blackpool she met and fell in love with Stanislaw Losinska, a Polish pilot in the Royal Air Force. At the time there was a marriage ban in the civil service, and she was forced to leave.

When this was abolished in the late 1940s, she returned to the civil service and became increasingly active in her union.

In retirement she moved to the Bruff area of Co Limerick. She was active in the civil service benevolent fund and retirement fellowship. She served as vice-president of the Jim Conway Memorial Foundation, an organisation of Catholic trade unionists and organised support for the Solidarity union in Poland. She was also a long-serving member of Amnesty International, and asked for donations to Amnesty rather than flowers at her funeral.

She was predeceased by her husband Stanislaw and is survived by her son Julian and grandchildren.