Construction unions fear crooked officers may have given up police files to union-busting firms
“DISTURBING” files on crooked cops who traded sensitive data for cash angered trade unionists at construction union Ucatt yesterday, who suspect the scandal is linked to illegal blacklisting.
Union general secretary Steve Murphy voiced alarm following the release of police records showing officers in the Metropolitan Police had sold confidential details for cash — a practice that could have a major bearing on the industry’s ongoing blacklisting dispute.
Requests made to Britain’s largest police force under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed at least 300 recorded breaches of the Data Protection Act by officers since 2009, ranging from spying on partners and relatives through to aiding known criminals.
But trade unionists and civil liberties campaigners reserved particular concern for a number of cases where police officers had handed confidential information to journalists and others — in some cases with an explicit cash kickback.
The files are the latest in a string of damaging disclosures for Britain’s police force, which is already battling accusations of complicity in blacklisting.
Suspicions that the union-busting method was being being used were confirmed in 2009 when investigators raided offices belonging to the now-defunct Consulting Association. The action retrieved a database which implicated dozens of firms in the creation of a list of 3,200 names, many belonging to trade unionists and activists who had found themselves drummed out of work for years at a time.
The conspiracy took on even greater dimensions in 2012 when the Information Commissioner’s Office revealed the entries included information exclusive to police or MI5 agents.
The following year the Independent Police Complaints Commission reported it was “likely that all special branches were involved in providing information” for blacklists, while former undercover officer Peter Francis told MPs in August that information he gathered for the Met’s Special Demonstration Squad was passed on to the Consulting Association.
Mr Murphy described the disclosures as “disturbing... it appears to show how the police have been complicit in ruining workers’ lives.”
The Blacklist Support Group’s Dave Smith said the scale and sophistication of blacklisting in Britain could not be attributed to “a few bent coppers.”
But the files were “exposing the same mechanism.”
“What we’ve got is undercover cops who are spying on us, then that information is passed onto the industrial desk.
“If someone officially turns up from the police and does a Powerpoint presentation to a bunch of construction executives, that’s no different,” he said.
Network for Police Monitoring representative Kevin Blowe said such misuse and collusion with corporate interests was only to be expected where police engaged in “industrial-scale data gathering.”
“These stories make a mockery of the idea that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear — but they are almost certainly the tip of the iceberg.
“We do have something to fear — and it’s who else the police are sharing our personal information with,” he said.