Blacklisted workers granted ‘core participant’ status at Pitchford inquiry into undercovers
BLACKLISTED workers have hailed a “major breakthrough” after they were deemed “core participants” in a public inquiry into police spying beginning today.
The Pitchford inquiry into undercover policing was announced by Home Secretary Theresa May after claims that officers had infiltrated protest groups and, in some cases, established long-term sexual relationships with their targets.
Trade unionists said there was “documentary evidence” that undercover officers had passed information to a blacklist database maintained by a club of construction bosses.
“Finally, this is official recognition that the evidence we have uncovered about this sordid anti-democratic conspiracy deserves to be fully investigated,” said blacklisted bricklayer Frank Smith.
Earlier this month the Star revealed that Merseyside Police had attempted to recruit a construction worker as a spy as recently as last year.
Yet inquiry chairman and Court of Appeal judge Christopher Pitchford did not refer to blacklisting when he announced the inquiry’s terms in July.
Blacklisting campaigners voiced fears that the investigation could turn into “just turn into another Establishment whitewash.”
But yesterday the Blacklist Support Group announced that the inquiry had agreed to cover its legal costs and allow blacklisted workers access to all evidence submitted.
Its secretary Dave Smith said that workers “remained sceptical” about the inquiry, but he added that Lord Justice Pitchford was “the only game in town” with a chance of getting close to the truth.
“We intend to continue to push for justice both inside and outside the inquiry,” said Mr Smith.
“The biggest barriers to justice at the moment are the wholesale systematic destruction of documentary evidence, which has already taken place by the police, and the farcical ‘neither confirm nor deny’ position adopted by the police about both the undercover police officers and the activists who were their targets.
“We currently have the Alice in Wonderland situation where people have been granted core participant status in a public inquiry about the failings of undercover policing but the very same individuals are still being spied on by the police for their political activities.”
The Pitchford inquiry will also examine evidence that police infiltrated environmental groups and spied on the friends and family of teenager Stephen Lawrence, who was murdered in a racist attack in 1993.
Construction unions Ucatt and GMB have called for blacklisting to be made a criminal offence. Both have submitted large batches of evidence to the inquiry and are understood to have also been granted core participant status.
“It is a very positive development that there will be a voice for blacklisted workers on the Pitchford inquiry,” said GMB national officer Justin Bowden.
“The systematic blacklisting of a generation of construction workers and environmental activists by dozens of household-name UK companies is on a par with the shocking activities of the police towards Stephen Lawrence’s family and the phone-hacking scandal.
“All of these civil rights abuses merit detailed investigation as part of the inquiry.”
The scale of blacklisting in construction came to light in 2009 when government inspectors seized a list of over 3,000 workers from the Consulting Association, set up by bosses determined to prevent trade unionists from getting jobs.
Almost 100 workers are fighting for compensation in a case up for a formal court hearing tomorrow.
GMB believes the workers’ claim could be worth up to £30 million.
Mr Smith, whose then girlfriend Lisa Teuscher also had a file on the database despite never having worked in construction, said that secret police had helped to wreck his long-term relationships.