CWU pays tribute to inspirational Cyril

Union Matters

Tributes have been paid to long-serving CWU activist and representative Cyril Onyejekwe, who died at the weekend after a long battle against cancer.

Cyril, a member of the CWU London Postal Engineering Branch and an electrician by trade, was employed in what is now Royal Mail’s Property and Facilities Services (formerly Romec) and represented engineering members at workplace, branch, area and national levels.

After having battled myelofibrosis – a form of luekemia – since 2006, and campaigning for Afro-Caribbean men to become bone marrow donors, he was then diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014.

But despite being given just months to live, Cyril fought this too and also campaigned for greater awareness of the condition – particularly within the black community, among whom the effects of prostate cancer are more aggressive.

In that same year, he played a major role in the campaign to bring Romec fully back within Royal Mail, making a memorable conference speech describing the union as ‘a family’ and urging delegates to give national backing to the campaign.

On top of his CWU responsibilities, Cyril acted as a workplace mentor to apprentices within Romec/ RMP&FS.

London Postal Engineering Branch secretary John Humphries said: “Cyril was the most selfless, caring, dedicated person I’ve ever had the honour to work with and through all his health battles, he always had a smile and joke with those he met.

“His positive attitude and strength will always be an inspiration.”

NEC member Steve Jones, said: “I have known Cyril for 40 years. He was one of my dearest friends and by far the most inspirational person I have ever known. His battle against cancer was without exaggeration truly remarkable.

“For years, he continued to defy the disease and confound the medical experts with his refusal to let it define him.

“A few years ago, I recall meeting him at Canary Wharf Station in a hail storm on the way to represent members, he was clearly very ill – his doctor told him that morning that he had pneumonia! But he insisted on meeting the members.

“This selflessness and determination was typical of the man.

“We should not mourn, but celebrate his life with the same energy and determination that he did, and do so with that trademark smile and lust for life that he never lost.

“Cyril’s watch words were ‘positive mental attitude’, which carried him through for more than a decade.

“He was a true giant of a man who never sought anything other than what he could do for others. The light and love he brought into our lives will never go out.”

CWU assistant secretary Ray Ellis described Cyril as “a man who loved life, was devoted to his family and fought tirelessly for the members he represented.

“He was a man of tremendous energy, enthusiasm and good humour, and he will be remembered with tremendous affection by all of us.”

General secretary Dave Ward also paid tribute to Cyril, saying that he had been “an inspirational figure both in and out of work.

“He was a true trade unionist and a great man and the union will honour his memory appropriately.

“Our thoughts are with Cyril’s friends and family.”

Deputy general secretary postal Terry Pullinger added his respects and praised Cyril’s “massively positive contribution” to the Pensions Working Group.

“Despite his own circumstances, he was working hard to help make a better life and retirement for other working people – he was one of our most respected and admired activists and he’ll be remembered with fondness and affection.”

A poignant video interview with Cyril recorded last year can be viewed here.