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It was with great sadness that the GPI and New Beacon Books learned of the recent passing of our friend and comrade Dave Feickert.
Dave Feickert was born in New Zealand in 1946 and attended Whanganui Boys College, later obtaining degrees from Victoria University and then Bradford University in Yorkshire, England. His mother was born in London's East End and during World War Two was almost killed when a V1 bomb hit the house in which she lived. Dave's father too had a narrow escape during the war when the New Zealand ship on which he worked as an engineer was hit by a mine. As a result of these family experiences, Dave Feickert grew up to become a lifelong believer that war must be avoided at all costs. He was an unequivocal advocate of peace and negotiation.
The relationship between Dave and New Beacon Books and later the GPI, was a longstanding one which saw him together with John La Rose and others, discussing and hammering out the issues affecting miners and other workers; the introduction of new technology which was putting job security at risk, the fight for a reduction in working hours and the international dimension and politics of trade union movements in developing countries. Dave himself, in the book of tributes to John La Rose, 'Foundations of a Movement' describes this: 'In the early 1980s, as the technological revolution based on the microchip got underway, we spent many hours both in forums and around John and Sarah's kitchen table discussing the huge importance of what was taking place. We discussed the experiences of workers in other countries. It is that international knowledge and perspective that John shares with everyone he meets that is so crucial in our struggle for a better life.' The International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books was felt by Dave to be a 'political home' which was both 'nurturing and sustaining'.
After a decade of working as Head of Research with the NUM, Dave went on in 1993 to become the European Representative of the UK TUC at the European Trades Union Confedration (ETUC) in Brussels where he campaigned for sustainable development and battled against attempts by some companies and governments at deregulation. Returning to New Zealand in 2003, his work revolved around the promotion of miners' health and safety. Dave went on to embark on a miners' safety project in China and by 2007 had become the Project Co-ordinator for the New Zealand-China Mine Safety Co-operation. Dave called on redundant Yorkshire miners and safety experts to run courses and give advice, all in his efforts to provide better safety conditions for Chinese miners. Despite the fact that the death toll among Chinese mine workers remains unacceptably high, it has been cut by approximately 50% and the accident rate by up to 70% - in large part to the work initiated by Dave Feickert! The Chinese Government recognised this in 2009 when Dave was awarded the prestigious "China Friendship Award" at a special ceremony in Beijing.
Dave Feickert worked tirelessly for improvements in mine safety over many years but was also committed to bringing about better life conditions for workers in general. He was someone who believed in the power to 'work locally and think and act globally'.