He left school at the age of 16 to work on the railways. He was the General Secretary of the RMT union for 12 years.
The leader of the biggest tube union has signalled new battles ahead as the Underground enters an unprecedented period of modernisation.
A tube strike which threatened to cause misery for millions of commuters was called off at the last minute today.
The TSSA union is to suspend its strike on London Underground after reaching a deal over ticket office closures.
ACAS peace talks continue but chances of averting the tube strike dwindle by the hour. London Underground sources suggest negotiations "have moved forward a bit" but significant barriers remain.
Talks aimed at averting another strike by London Underground workers have been adjourned and will resume tomorrow, said Acas
Talks aimed at averting more strikes by London Underground workers have adjourned until Monday, said Acas.
– ACAS Spokesperson
Talks took place at Acas today and the parties have adjourned to consider their positions. All parties have agreed to continue with further discussions on Monday.
RMT union president John Leach and London Underground officials Phil Hufton and Nigel Holness have arrived at ACAS for talks, in a bid to halt further tube strikes next week.
London Underground services have returned to normal after huge delays and disruption caused by a 48-hour strike over ticket office closures.
Fresh talks will be held on Friday to try to resolve the bitter dispute which sparked the strike.