We the undersigned, are writing this open letter in the spirit of fraternal debate amongst members of the newly merged Ucatt / Unite construction union.
The upsurge in industrial militancy in the last few years demonstrates that when the official union works alongside rank and file activists, it is possible to mobilise workers even in a hostile environment. The merger offers an opportunity to start anew the fight against the appallingly high fatality rates and casualisation of the construction industry by combining the best traditions of the two unions.
However, one issue threatens to cause internal friction: possible union collusion in blacklisting.
Some years ago, both Ucatt and Unite carried out internal investigations into possible union involvement in blacklisting. But that was at a time when barely any of the documentation was available.
Since the High Court, all that has changed. The employers were forced to provide witness statements and disclose 40 years worth of documentary evidence. It is now in the public domain that officials in both unions were recorded as the source of information on Economic League and Consulting Association blacklist files. Some of those named remain senior officials in Unite and Ucatt to this day. Every union activist in construction knows who the named officials are, as does every major employer.
The leadership of both unions have now seen the evidence: discussions about those officials potentially implicated in blacklisting or with overly cosy relationships with industrial relations managers has been part of the behind the scenes discussions in the run up to the merger.
The High Court litigation won a multi-million pound settlement for blacklisted workers. We fully acknowledge and recognise the tremendous legal, political and industrial campaigns that the unions undertook.
But compensation is not the same as justice: there has still been no-one held accountable for their actions. We remain resolute in calling for a public inquiry into blacklisting. But that is for a future Corbyn government. Now is the time to put our own house in order.
We the undersigned call upon the new Unite construction section to engage an independent legal expert to carry out a thorough investigation of the allegations relating to union collusion in blacklisting, with a remit drawn up in conjunction with the blacklisted workers. If the implicated officials are completely innocent, then this is their opportunity to clear their name once and for all.
But if the independent investigation concludes that there is a case to answer, then the union should take the appropriate disciplinary action. We are not looking for a witch-hunt, we simply want answers into possible union collusion in order to avoid repeating mistakes of the past.
This issue has haunted the union for years and until it is prepared to act, it will continue to be a running sore that hinders building unity in the newly merged union. We need to unite in order to fight against unscrupulous employers and the Tories, but the newly merged union needs to start with a clean slate.
We urge members to please attend your branch or regional meetings, and send a motion in support of an independent investigation to the Unite EC.
Blacklist Support Group
Construction Rank and File (national)
Steve Acheson – ex-UNITE branch secretary & safety rep
Dave Ayre – ex-Crook UCATT branch secretary
Roy Bentham – ex-UCATT steward & secretary UNITE Liverpool construction
Graham Bowker – treasurer UNITE Manchester contracting branch
Graeme Boxall – branch secretary UNITE London construction branch
Ian Bradley – UNITE London contracting branch
John Bryan – retired Bermondsey UCATT
Dan Collins – UNITE London construction branch
John Connolly – UNITE Liverpool
Paul Crimmins – ex-UCATT branch secretary & steward
Stewart Emms – ex UCATT full time official
John Flannaghan – ex-UCATT, Merseyside Asbestos Victims Support Group
Jack Fawbert – ex-UCATT convener
Lee Fowler – ex-offshore safety rep, UNITE
George Fuller – ex-UCATT safety rep
Jim Grey – Jubilee Line steward, UNITE London contracting
Jim Harte – chair UNITE Combine Committee
Brian Higgins – ex-UCATT Eastern Regional Council & branch secretary
Kevin Holmes – chair, UNITE Manchester construction branch
Stewart Hume – UNITE construction NISC
John Jones – ex-UCATT London Regional Council
Tony Jones – UNITE Manchester construction branch
Steve Kelly – Jubilee Line steward, ex-UNITE branch secretary
Stephen Kennedy – Jubilee Line steward, UNITE
Greig McArthur – UNITE construction NISC
Frank Morris –UNITE EC member for construction
Tony O’Brien – ex-UCATT Southwark convenor & branch secretary
Jason Poulter – secretary UNITE Manchester construction branch
Jim Ryan –Crossrail steward, UNITE London contracting
Pete Shaw – UNITE construction RISC, Combine committee
Dave Smith – ex-UCATT branch secretary & London Regional Council
Frank Smith – ex-UCATT branch secretary & steward
Billy Spiers – chair UNITE construction NISC, ex-AMICUS EC member
Tony Sweeney – ex-UCATT Liverpool convenor
(all the individuals above are signing in a personal capacity)