Tributes to Luton community activist and trade unionist Jim Thakoordin

A former colleague described him as “a fierce advocate for Luton”
Jim with wife, Doreen, and grandaughters Rohanie (left) and Aoife. Picture: Jane ThakoordinJim with wife, Doreen, and grandaughters Rohanie (left) and Aoife. Picture: Jane Thakoordin
Jim with wife, Doreen, and grandaughters Rohanie (left) and Aoife. Picture: Jane Thakoordin

Tributes have poured in for Jim Thakoordin, a trade unionist and activist from Luton, who has died at the age of 80.

Jim, who was part of the Windrush generation, was born on a sugar plantation in Guyana and began working there when he was 12. After moving to the UK, he was a Bedfordshire county councillor and Caddington parish councillor, and was involved in the Labour Party for over five decades.

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At a full council meeting last week, a minute’s silence was held in his honour. Labour leader of Luton Borough Council and Lewsey councillor Hazel Simmons MBE said: "He'd been a long-serving Labour Party member, of more than 50 years, well-known in the town and well-respected.

Jim in his younger years. Picture:  Jane ThakoordinJim in his younger years. Picture:  Jane Thakoordin
Jim in his younger years. Picture: Jane Thakoordin

“Jim was very forthright and very well-read, a writer, and I'm sure all our thoughts are with Doreen, his wife, and we wish her the best in these very sad times."

Liberal Democrat group leader and Barnfield councillor David Franks said: "Those of us who knew and worked with Jim knew exactly where we stood. When we agreed with him that was great, and when we didn't we understood why not. He worked very hard for the people of Luton over many years.”

Labour Poets councillor Jacqui Burnett added: "He was part of the Windrush generation. Like my parents he came from Guyana. He was part of the Black Trade Union. He wrote a numerous amount of books and lectured."

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A spokesperson for Luton Borough Council said: “We were very sad to hear of the passing of Jim Thakoordin, a long-standing Labour Party member and community activist. He was an ex-councillor whose passion was education and he campaigned and wrote several books on equality issues.

“He will be greatly missed and our thoughts are with his family at this sad time.”

MP for Luton South, Rachel Hopkins, called him “a stalwart of the Labour and trade union movement, locally and nationally”.

In her tribute, she said: “Jim was deeply committed to public service as a former Bedfordshire County Councillor and Caddington Parish Councillor, an active member of Luton Trades Union Council alongside various committees and public bodies, from education to health services.

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“A prolific writer, debater and campaigner, Jim was well known and respected for his work promoting equal rights, opportunities, and racial harmony.

“Jim was an active and vocal member of Luton South Labour Party for many decades, always speaking up for what he believed in. He will be greatly missed by us all. My thoughts are with his wife Doreen and their family at this difficult time."

Jim studied at the Universities of Essex, Warwick and London, and was awarded a scholarship to Ruskin College in Oxford at age of 31. He was a prominent trade unionist and worked for numerous unions during his career, campaigning for equal rights and combating racism in the workplace. In 2014, he was awarded the Trades Union Congress’s (TUC) silver badge for his contribution to trade unionism.

Laurie Heselden, regional policy and campaigns officer for TUC, worked with Jim between 1997, until 2014. Jim had been a delegate to the TUC regional council for the East of England, and on its race relations committee. Laurie said: “On meeting Jim I very quickly learned that he had already spent more than 35 years as a very active trade unionist, as a workplace rep, lay officer, full time officer, organiser and campaigner, in several unions.”

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“Jim became a lecturer and author, but he remained an active trade unionist, making important contributions to our education programmes for workplace reps, the trade union movement's central role in combating racism at work and in society, and our movement's urgent need to transform to better enable Black trade unionists to become workplace reps and officers, and for them to self-organise.

“He was always a fierce advocate for Luton and a champion of its Trades Council.”

Jim was also active in campaigning for the former Luton College of Higher Education to be turned into a university. And in 2018, he was given a Honorary Doctorate of Political Science for his service to community cohesion from the University of Bedfordshire.

A spokesperson for the university said: "We are saddened by the passing of Dr Jim Thakoordin and extend our condolences to his loved ones. He was committed to adult learning and advocated for expanding access to higher education. As a member of our governing body when we were the Luton College of Higher Education, Jim played a crucial part in the campaign to transform the college into a university.”

Aside from politics, Jim's other great passion was gardening and his family say he was never happier than working on his allotment or digging in his vegetable patch in his garden at home.

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