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Friday 6th
posted by Morning Star in Features

Hundreds of lives have been blighted as a result of this pernicious practice by the employers. It is time to act decisively against it, says Steve Murphy

Today is the sixth anniversary since the dirty secret of construction blacklisting was exposed, when the Information Commissioner’s Office raided the Consulting Association and confiscated its blacklist.

That raid — for failing to be licenced under the Data Protection Act — revealed there were 3,213 construction workers on the blacklist and that 44 construction companies, including virtually all the major household names, were involved in blacklisting workers.

Since the Consulting Association blacklist was discovered Ucatt has been intent on ensuring that victims receive justice, that blacklisting can never happen again and that the full truth of who was involved is revealed.

Six years later not a single company has apologised to their victims for their actions. Nor have those who had their lives ruined by blacklisting had any meaningful form of compensation.

Currently, hundreds of blacklisted workers have lodged cases in the High Court against the companies who blacklisted them.

Victims had no idea they were blacklisted and often were not especially active in the union movement. Despite this they found themselves on a secret blacklist. Inevitably work became harder to find or they were forced out of the industry. Blacklisting had terrible consequences for the individuals and their families.

The wheels of justice move slowly and while there is a desire to end the case as soon as possible the High Court trial is not scheduled until summer 2016 — seven years after the blacklist was exposed.

The construction companies remain in denial. Rather than accept their wrongdoing they have tried to minimise the cost of wrecking workers’ lives by establishing a counterfeit compensation scheme. Blacklisting victims could receive as little as £4,000 in what amounts to hush money.

This exercise is being conducted via The Construction Workers Compensation Scheme (TCWCS) and is being funded by many but not all of the major blacklisters.

The vast majority of blacklisted workers, who are able to, have seen TCWCS as a tawdry attempt to pay them off and gag them and have ignored the scheme.

Remarkably six years after the Consulting Association was brought to its knees new information about who was involved in blacklisting workers and ruining their lives is still being discovered.

This week Ucatt revealed how undercover police officer Mark Jenner — a member of the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), who posed as Mark Cassidy, a joiner — had infiltrated Ucatt and was a member between 1996-98, paying his subscriptions via direct debit.

Given the scale of the SDS infiltration of Ucatt and other working-class groups it would seem incredible if the the Home Office and it ministers were not aware of these activities. Surely such operations would have needed ministerial approval? Ministers in John Major’s government, especially his home secretary Michael Howard, have lot of explaining to do.

This is vitally important as it is clear that information on the files of blacklisted victims can only have come from the police and the security forces.

We also know that in November 2008, just weeks before the ICO raid, that Gordon Mills the detective chief inspector (DCI) of the national extremism tactical co-ordination unit  — gave a presentation to the Consulting Association, where many senior industrial relations managers of the blacklisting companies were present.

The Metropolitan Police has done everything possible to block inquiries into their involvement. This is one of the reasons it is vital that we have a full public inquiry into blacklisting.

Labour’s commitment — that if elected in May it will support an inquiry which is “both public and transparent” is vital because without such an inquiry we will never learn the truth.

What must not be forgotten is that the Consulting Association was certainly not the only blacklister.

There are Ucatt members whose lives have been clearly blighted by blacklisting but who are not on the Consulting Association blacklist.

I am also equally convinced that blacklisting still continues. Nor is blacklisting a problem unique to construction, for example we know that blacklisting occurred in the offshore industry.

That is why it is essential that not only do we establish the truth about what happened but we introduce tough new laws that stamp out blacklisting once and for all.

Given the secretive nature of blacklisting and the incredible difficulty in finding out it is occurring, a strong deterrent is required.

Blacklisting must become a criminal offence with a prison sentence a definite option for the guilty.

n Steve Murphy is general secretary of UCATT