The Blacklist Support Group wants the people responsible for ruining countless lives to be grilled in court so that the truth of the scandal is fully exposed, writes Davie Smith
Today I have the honour of speaking at the GMB Justice conference in Liverpool. The union holds the event to draw attention to a range of political campaigns that are often ignored by the mainstream media.
This is the third time Paul McCarthy (north-west regional secretary) has invited the Blacklist Support Group but this is the first time since the blacklisting campaign won a historic legal victory in the High Court.
The construction companies that orchestrated a 50-year conspiracy against trade unionism were forced to make a grovelling public apology and pay out a multimillion-pound settlement. But that doesn’t mean that our fight for justice is over.
After the final High Court hearing Maria Ludkin commented: “Today GMB feels truly vindicated to receive this apology for our blacklisted members. Despite years of denials, the greedy goliaths have been forced to apologise and account for their unlawful blacklisting.”
But the GMB legal chief also highlighted the limitations of litigation by adding: “All we could ever get for our members was compensation and a full apology.”
The British legal system is always stacked in favour of big business against working people. And in this instance “part 36” legal procedures allowed the guilty employers to effectively buy themselves out of a trial. Not one company director who personally added workers to a secret blacklist or refused them employment because they were a union member who complained about unpaid wages or raised concerns about asbestos has been forced to explain their actions in a criminal court.
Not one officer from the political policing units that infiltrated trade unions, spied on picket lines or gave PowerPoint presentations at the illegal Consulting Association meetings has even been asked to justify their actions.
Institutional sexism meant that female activists were viewed as disposable commodities and long-term sexual relationships were used to provide cover for the anti-democratic activities of shady undercover police units.
These corporate and state spies violated our human rights. They forced our children to miss holidays and schools trips.
They broke up families and ruined lives. But with a big cheque, the guilty seem to escape any kind of sanction. The captains of industry are still sitting on the board, the multinational companies are still awarded contracts in the public sector, including the NHS. What is lacking is any sort of accountability.
Speaking on the steps of the High Court on the day of the legal victory, John McDonnell told the assembled crowd of blacklisted workers that, “we have achieved compensation on a large scale but to be frank that’s just the first step. We want these people brought to justice for what they did. Compensation is one thing, justice is another.”
That is why the Blacklist Support Group, fully supported by the GMB, Unite, Ucatt and a resolution carried unanimously at the TUC is calling for a full public inquiry into the Consulting Association blacklisting outrage. Only when the wretches are forced to appear in the dock and are cross-examined under oath will we have any chance of exposing the truth of the scandal.
But blacklisting is not a one-off aberration, it is just one example in a pattern of breaches of International Labour Organisation conventions and basic human rights by corporations in collusion with the British state.
In the case of Camell Laird, union members at the Liverpool shipyard were jailed without a trial and over 30 years later no documentation relating to their imprisonment has ever been disclosed.
Nearly 45 years after Shrewsbury the government still refuses to release official papers in order to cover up the role of the security services in the 1972 building workers strike.
During the miners strike, some parts of the country were virtually under occupation by paramilitary police, the scenes at Orgreave when police repeatedly cavalry-charged unarmed striking miners being just the most high profile instance.
Decades later working-class communities are still campaigning for the truth. Our slogan is: “No Justice, No Peace.”
Jeremy Corbyn and McDonnell have both made speeches promising us justice. They have stood with us throughout our campaign — we now stand in solidarity with them.
But when Corbyn is elected prime minister, the Blacklist Support Group will be knocking on Number 10n to ask what date our public inquiry will be starting.