Socialist Worker

Victimised construction workers fight for justice

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2276

Construction bosses ruined the lives of thousands of workers with a blacklist.

But did some union officials help them?

Assistant general secretary for the Unite union, Gail Cartmail, investigated allegations of collusion by union officials with the blacklist.

Her report states, “Despite considerable effort I have not discovered evidence against officers.”

Cartmail presented the report to the Blacklist Support Group annual general meeting in London last Saturday.

Cartmail said, “If you ask me if there was collusion in the past, I say probably yes.”

She apologised to the workers and promised the union’s full support for them.

The Information Commissioner, the government official in charge of data protection, seized a blacklist of over 3,200 construction workers in 2009.

Firms subscribed to the secret list for a £3,000 annual fee, and could view private details about individual workers for just £2.20 a time.

Among the 44 firms using the list were some of the largest in the construction industry—including Balfour Beatty and Laing O’Rourke.

Workers can get redacted copies of their files. So far only 355 workers have claimed them.

Evidence

Socialist Worker revealed evidence of the blacklist in 2006.

Evidence of it has been in the possession of some in the union movement since 2005.

Employers provided the overwhelming majority of the details on the files. But some workers say their files show that union officials supplied the construction companies with information.

Blacklisted worker Steve Acheson told Saturday’s meeting that nine union officials had been named in an employment tribunal as supplying information.

Others spoke of how their files included phrases such as “source: Amicus”.

In one case a detailed account of a branch meeting was recorded in a worker’s blacklisting file.

He believes that could only have been provided by a union official.

The Blacklist Support Group points out, “The Blacklisting Support Group does not think that all union officials are corrupt—most are dedicated individuals.

“But it would stretch credulity to claim that no union officers have ever helped employers to victimise union activists that both considered troublemakers.”

Alan Wainwright, a former director of Balfour Beatty subsidiary Haden Young, produced the initial evidence about blacklisting. He gave that evidence to Amicus in 2005, and wrote to Derek Simpson, then general secretary, about it in 2006.

One former Amicus official and now a manager, Jim Simms, has claimed to have evidence of union officials’ involvement in the blacklist.

According to Cartmail’s report, “Mr Simms cannot be relied on as a source as he has failed to provide proof of a link between current officials and blacklisting.”

Of around 100 employment tribunals taken by workers, only three have been successful at a full merits hearing.

One of the blacklisted workers’ key demands is that they are employed on major construction projects and the unions fight for them to get those jobs.

Blacklisted workers are fighting for justice on a number of fronts, including in the courts in Britain and in Europe.

If you think you may have been blacklisted or for more details go to www.hazards.org/blacklistblog

Read Socialist Worker's 2006 coverage of the blacklist here www.socialistworker.co.uk//art.php?id=8636


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