Tribute to Skip Bawa

It is with great sadness that we share the news that our friend and comrade Skip Bawa passed away last week.
Skip was our Deputy Branch Secretary and Black Members Officer, as well as being Co-Chair of the Regional Black Members Committee. He gave four decades of his life to the union, helping, uplifting and inspiring others. As a public servant, he cared for and safeguarded the most vulnerable in our society.

Skip at the 2023 Stand Up to Racism demo

He saw humour in difficult situations and overcame many challenges in doing so. He was motivated by an faith in humanity. He saw the essential goodness of people.
Those who knew Skip feel privileged to have done so. Skip helped countless of his fellow union members over the years and is an example we should all follow.
All our thoughts and love are with Skip’s family at this time.
If you’d like to share a tribute to or any memories of Skip, please email unison@hants.gov.uk

 

Here are some of the many tributes which have been paid to Skip from across the union movement:
  • Gina Hynard, Former Branch Secretary & Chair of Hampshire UNISON – “My first memory was him looking after me as a brand new steward at a meet and greet, well over 30 years ago. He was so welcoming and willing to listen and help me as someone new to the the role . His knowledge and experience and his insightful contributions to the branch meetings will always be a huge part of my memory of him. Always calm and considered and willing to share. I am sure his dedication to the branch and his presence will leave a huge void.
    My thoughts are with you all and his family at this time. He was a truly wonderful inspiring person.”
  • Steve Squibbs, Former Branch Secretary of Hampshire UNISON & Former Chair of Southampton Stand Up To Racism – “Such sad news. Skip was an excellent trade unionist, a passionate and eloquent advocate for his fellow members, with a firm belief that we could all make the world a better place – and Skip definitely did. He will be sorely missed.”
  • Emma Howden, Former Branch Secretary & Chair of Hampshire UNISON – “Skip was such a wonderful human being; generous, kind, warm and funny. He was a gentle soul and a good trade unionist. He liked people and saw the best in everyone. He was supportive and encouraging to me as I became more active in the branch. He always had a good word to say; following a conversation with Skip, I either came away wanting to further research something of interest that he was reading about and had shared, or I would reflect upon how I might try to be ‘more like Skip’. My thoughts are with Sarah and Skip’s family at this sad time, and with friends and members of the branch, what a terrible loss Skip’s passing is to us all.”
  • Angela Cleife, Hampshire UNISON Retired Members Secretary – “He was such a lovely man, such a warm personality.”
  • Kevin Dacombe, Peter Symonds College UNISON rep – “Skip was so helpful to me and so, so much fun! Hampshire Unison will have a hole that can’t be filled now.”
  • Natalia Byer, Hampshire UNISON Equalities Officer – “Sending my sincere condolences. I didn’t know Skip that long but it was obvious from the outset that he was an amazing human being and extremely dedicated to his work’s mission.”
  • Sheree Earnshaw, UNISON activist – “He was a wonderful person”
  • Elizabeth Muir, Hampshire Teachers Liaison Panel Secretary – “He was a lovely man and committed to helping people. He will be greatly missed.”
  • Sue Kent, Hampshire NEU Branch Secretary – “Please pass on the condolences of Hampshire NEU to the family and colleagues at the loss of Skip. We always are left with a big hole locally on the passing of an activist and generally good human who has worked tirelessly for the collective endeavour that all unions represent. ‘Don’t mourn: organise’ (Joe Hill)”
  • Colin Smith, UNISON – “I’m very sorry to hear the news. That is a tragedy. He was a wonderful person, dedicated to helping other people, hard-working and so committed to public service. I didn’t know him closely, and only through the good offices of the Union, but his warmth, good humour, determination and love of people shone through in all he did.
  • Steve Torrance, South East UNISON Regional Secretary –  “Remembered by all as a kind, warm man who was committed to uplifting others, Skip will be sorely missed. In a blog for Black History Month in October 2023, Skip recounted a quote he liked to remember: “Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations” – Skip never was, and it is advice we should all seek to follow. We pay tribute to his memory, and extend our condolences to his family and friends, and his union comrades.”
  • Hampshire UNISON Retired Members Committee – “The Retired Members Section Of Hampshire Unison looked forward to Skip joining our merry band. Sadly now, not to be. Joe Hannigan perhaps, knew him best as a past colleague in the Mental Health field but also from many years’ comradeship in branch meetings and a fair few Conferences and social occasions. There are people one crosses the road to avoid; some people are always a pleasure to greet. Any chance encounter with Skip was pleasurable, informative and jocular. He will be remembered with respect and affection by those honoured by his care and friendship… a very special guy indeed! Our thoughts are with his family and colleagues. Respect and solidarity”
  • Jeanette Smith, Hampshire UNISON Caseworker – “He was truly a giant within UNISON. Calm under pressure with a personality that wrapped you in confidence that everything will be ok. We will miss him and the saying “Grief is the price we pay for love” sums up how we are feeling as Skip was so loved and will be greatly missed by colleagues and members.”
  • Julie Murdoch, South East Area Organiser and Former Hampshire UNISON Branch Secretary – “I first met Skip 26 years ago and he was one of the most supportive people I’ve ever met. He was a gentle soul and never had a bad word for anyone. His profession and his Union work were always about looking after people and making lives better, such a great example to everyone. He will be missed so much.”
  • Dave Anderson, Former Hampshire UNISON Branch Secretary – “I respond with enormous sadness to receive the news of the passing of Skip Bawa. Skip was a truly dedicated UNISON steward, then Convenor whilst I was Branch Secretary. I can never forget his hard work and compassion he gave for the members he represented, assisting with some of the most difficult negotiations and the support he gave me and other Branch Officers and stewards. Above all, I will always remember Skip as not only a colleague, but a thoroughly decent human being and a friend.”
  • Alison Owen, Former Hampshire UNISON rep – “I was so sad to learn the news about Skip. I very much respected him and he was always so helpful when I was a steward and giving advice generally. He was a lovely man
  • Declan Clune, Southampton & South West Hampshire Trades Union Council Secretary – “I want to pass on the sincere condolences from me and everyone at Southampton Trades Council on the passing of Comrade Skip Bawa. His loss is one our movement is unlikely to recover from, he was a trade unionist committed to trade union members over many years, and has been an integral part of the successes you have all achieved over that time. He was an inspiration to us all and set the standards for us all to follow. May he Rest In Power”
  • Callum Williamson, Hampshire UNISON Branch Secretary – “I knew Skip as a friend and comrade through our work together for the Hampshire Local Government branch of UNISON, where Skip was our Deputy Branch Secretary and Black Members Officer. Skip gave four decades of his life to the union movement as a rep and to public service because of his love for his fellow human beings. He was his brother’s keeper. In his works in life Skip helped thousands of people. He was a champion of the vulnerable and the oppressed. He was a mentor to many people inside both in the council and the union.Aside from his altruism he was fascinated by people and always seeking to learn more about why we are as we are. He understood and would often remark on how we all have flaws, but this didn’t lead him to judge others or diminish his love of people.

    Skip had a capacity for empathy which few people possess, but more than this though he had an ability to make others feel at peace. I’d sometimes come away from a conversation with him feeling like I’d just had therapy, and I know that speaking to others I was not alone in feeling that. You would always come away from that conversation with him with greater perspective and feeling better than you had before. He made you feel valued and supported.

    Skip had to face many struggles over his life ever since he was a small child. His response to this was not simply to overcome these against the odds, but to dedicate himself to supporting others in their struggles. This was the life he wanted to lead.

    Back in November Skip gave a talk to members in our branch in which he reflected on the progress that had been made in the struggle for equality and against race discrimination from the time he arrived in the UK, to the time he joined the workforce as a young man, to the present day. That progress was brought about because of Skip and people like him who would not let injustice go unchallenged – and to them we owe a debt of gratitude.

    Skip was widely loved and respected, and I also think that Skip knew how much he meant to people. We should take comfort in this. Skip is an example for us all and will always be loved and remembered.