WE THE undersigned, are writing this open letter in the spirit of fraternal debate among members of the newly merged Ucatt/Unite construction union.
The upsurge in industrial militancy in the last few years demonstrates that when the official union works alongside rank and file activists, it is possible to mobilise workers even in a hostile environment. The merger offers an opportunity to start anew the fight against the appallingly high fatality rates and casualisation of the construction industry by combining the best traditions of the two unions.
However, one issue threatens to cause internal friction: possible union collusion in blacklisting.
Some years ago, both Ucatt and Unite carried out internal investigations into possible union involvement in blacklisting. But that was at a time when barely any of the documentation was available.
Since the High Court case, all that has changed. The employers were forced to provide witness statements and disclose 40 years’ worth of documentary evidence. It is now in the public domain that officials in both unions were recorded as the source of information on Economic League and Consulting Association blacklist files. Some of those named, remain senior officials in Unite and Ucatt to this day. Every union activist in construction knows who the named officials are, as does every major employer.
The leadership of both unions have now seen the evidence: discussions about those officials potentially implicated in blacklisting or with overly cosy relationships with industrial relations managers has been part of the behind the scenes discussions in the run-up to the merger.
The High Court litigation won a multimillion-pound settlement for blacklisted workers. We fully acknowledge and recognise the tremendous legal, political and industrial campaigns that the unions have undertaken.
But compensation is not the same as justice. No-one has been held accountable for their actions. We remain resolute in calling for a public inquiry into blacklisting. But that is for a future Corbyn government. Now is the time to put our own house in order.
We the undersigned call upon the new Unite construction section to engage an independent legal expert to carry out a thorough investigation of the allegations relating to union collusion in blacklisting, with a remit drawn up in conjunction with the blacklisted workers. If the implicated officials are completely innocent, then this is their opportunity to clear their name once and for all. But if the independent investigation concludes that there is a case to answer, then the union should take the appropriate disciplinary action. We are not looking for a witch-hunt, we simply want answers into possible union collusion in order to avoid repeating mistakes of the past.
This issue has haunted the union for years and until it is prepared to act, it will continue to be a running sore that hinders building unity in the newly merged union. We need to unite in order to fight against unscrupulous employers and the Tories, but the newly merged union needs to start with a clean slate.
We urge members to please attend your branch or regional meetings, and send a motion in support of an independent investigation to the Unite EC.
Blacklist Support Group
Construction Rank and File (national)
And (in personal capacity)
• Steve Acheson, ex-Unite branch secretary and safety rep
• Dave Ayre, ex-Crook Ucatt branch secretary
• Roy Bentham, ex-Ucatt steward and secretary Unite Liverpool construction
• Graham Bowker, treasurer Unite Manchester contracting branch
• Graeme Boxall, branch secretary Unite London construction branch
• Ian Bradley, Unite London contracting branch
• John Bryan, retired Bermondsey Ucatt
• Dan Collins, Unite London construction branch
• John Connolly, Unite Liverpool
• Paul Crimmins, ex-Ucatt branch secretary and steward
• Stewart Emms, ex-Ucatt full time official
• John Flannaghan, ex-Ucatt Merseyside Asbestos Victims Support Group
• Jack Fawbert, ex-Ucatt convener
• Lee Fowler, ex-offshore safety rep, Unite
• George Fuller, ex-Ucatt safety rep
• Jim Grey, Jubilee Line steward, Unite London contracting
• Jim Harte, chair Unite combine committee
• Brian Higgins, ex-Ucatt eastern regional council and branch secretary
• Kevin Holmes, chair, Unite Manchester construction branch
• Stewart Hume, Unite construction NISC
• John Jones, ex-Ucatt London regional council
• Tony Jones, Unite Manchester construction branch
• Steve Kelly, Jubilee Line steward, ex-Unite branch secretary
• Stephen Kennedy, Jubilee Line steward, Unite
• Greig McArthur, Unite construction NISC
• Frank Morris, Unite EC member for construction
• Kenny Newton, Unite construction
• Tony O’Brien, ex-Ucatt convenor and branch secretary
• Jason Poulter, secretary Unite Manchester construction branch
• Jim Ryan, Crossrail steward, Unite London contracting
• Pete Shaw, Unite construction RISC, Combine committee
• Dave Smith, ex-Ucatt branch secretary and London regional council
• Frank Smith, ex-Ucatt branch secretary and steward
• Billy Spiers, chair Unite construction NISC, ex-Amicus EC