TRADE unions Ucatt and GMB are right to demand that the public inquiry into undercover policing announced yesterday investigate the systematic blacklisting of workers.
Anglia Ruskin University made the right decision in terminating the employment of former detective chief inspector Gordon Mills following news that he colluded with the secretive Consulting Association, which provided lists of names to construction firms seeking to purge their workforces of anyone standing up for health and safety issues or workers’ rights.
Losing his job gives Mr Mills a very mild taste of the medicine he helped to dish out to thousands of others, many of whose lives were ruined by being denied work for years.
But following on from Ucatt’s revelation last week that Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) officer Mark Jenner — already in the frame for a five-year sexual relationship with a member of the anti-racist Colin Roach Centre he was spying on — infiltrated the union, it appears what we know about police snooping on legitimate trade unionism is just the tip of the iceberg.
The construction’s union general secretary Steve Murphy concludes that the SDS was “out of control” — we’ve already been shocked by other exposés of its sordid activities, which included attempts to smear the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence and slander Jean Charles de Menezes, the innocent electrician shot dead by police in 2005.
But a more worrying possibility exists — that the authorities were well aware of what these plain-clothes cops were up to and endorsed it.
After all, governments past and present have hardly shied away from intrusive and unlawful spying on their own citizens.
Blairite expenses-fiddler Hazel Blears’s assertion that GCHQ is not “collecting or reading everyone’s emails” because “they do not have the legal authority” is hardly reassuring, considering last month’s finding by the Investigatory Powers Tribunal that the agency had indulged in illegal spying for seven years.
Police collaboration with business leaders in persecuting trade unionists is simply another example of the state’s willingness to disregard its own laws when trampling on working people’s rights.
Only an independent and fully public investigation into the state’s collusion with blacklisting can offer justice to its many victims.
Labour, to its credit, has promised such an inquiry if it wins the election. But all pressure must be brought to bear to force the current government to come clean as well.
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