Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 September 2014

Frank Bunting: The widely respected trade union leader who fought hard to ensure better deal for teachers

Frank Bunting, the trade union leader with the trademark bow-tie, has died aged 61 after battling with cancer. Away from his work as head of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (Into) - a position he retired from in May - he was recognised as an important voice for the teaching profession.

He was instrumental in bringing the Info, which mainly represents staff in Catholic maintained schools, and the mainly-Protestant Ulster Teachers Union (UTU), closer together.

A non-sectarian man, Bunting was an advocate for teachers everywhere and was respected throughout the trade union movement.

A former secondary schoolteacher, who is survived by two sons and a daughter, he left the classroom to take up the cause of teachers. He also worked with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) for 15 years.

It was his passion for the rights of school staff that took him to the union 20 years ago.

Down two decades, he worked tirelessly to improve the lot of teachers and other school staff and bring about close links between all teachers.

His cousin and fellow trade union leader, Peter Bunting, stressed the fact that Frank was non-sectarian and whose ambition was an inclusive society here.

Education Minister John O'Dowd said: "Frank cared passionately about the rights of teachers and school staff. His contributions over the years led to improvements not just for his members, but for children, too.

"He played a leading role both in championing teachers and ensuring that their interests were best-served. He consistently showed leadership during difficult periods for the teaching unions."

Away from the negotiating table, there was another side to Frank Bunting. He always enjoyed a joke, was never without a smile or good advice - and he was a careful, tasteful dresser, rarely seen on special occasions without his bow tie.

His death comes after an inspirational battle with stomach cancer.

Frank signed up to a medical trial in an effort to prolong his life and in March last year - eight months after doctors told him he only had 12 weeks to live - he spoke candidly about his diagnosis.

"My doctor told me there was a nine out of 10 chance it was a stomach ulcer. I asked him what else it could be and he said cancer. I thought they were great odds, but then it turned out it was cancer and I had a very short period left.

"They mentioned three months. I thought that was very short. I made a will and my four children all came home.

"I just wanted to continue working. I get a lot of pleasure out of my work, it's a very interesting job. If there is anyway to give yourself a wee bit longer I would grab at it."

It is not known whether his participation on the trial is the reason he survived almost two years longer than the prognosis given by doctors.

But the extra time he gained he devoted to his family, teaching profession and his past times.

He loved riding on the open road on a motor-bike, or taking himself away on foreign travel.

Mervyn Storey, DUP chairman of the Assembly's education committee, said Mr Bunting was "someone with a passion for his profession".

He added: "While Frank and I had different views on issues relating to education, I always found him to be willing to engage and courteous in his manner."

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