Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2286

Blacklisting – how bosses targeted ‘troublemakers’

This article is over 10 years, 0 months old
Blacklist files of over 100 workers were submitted in evidence as part of Dave Smith’s Employment Tribunal.
Issue 2286

Blacklist files of over 100 workers were submitted in evidence as part of Dave Smith’s Employment Tribunal.

The vast majority of the information on them came from building companies.

On some of the Consulting Association files there is open admission that the information may be wrong or relate to another person with a similar surname. Dave’s file refers to the views of his wife and people he is friendly with.

Dave was fired from a Schal site after presenting a petition from 150 workers complaining about “pigsty” toilets. He was a safety rep for the Ucatt union at the time.

The blacklist contains lists of workers involved in a number of construction disputes.

Most are described as “troublemakers”, which is a euphemism for trade unionist.

One worker is described as being “seen at left wing meeting”. The source for this is a construction company.

Some files include Socialist Worker reports of disputes. One describes a worker as an “SWP sympathiser”.

Many workers were blacklisted after industrial disputes in the 1990s and early 2000s.


These include those at the Jubilee Line tube extension, the Royal Opera House and Pfizer manufacturing sites in Kent.

In 2006 Socialist Worker revealed how Alan Wainwright, a former director of Balfour Beatty subsidiary Haden Young, produced a partial version of the blacklist.

Comments on workers’ files include, “Ex shop-steward. Definite problems. No Go”, “do not touch!!”, “Caused IR (industrial relations) problems on that site (lazy and a trouble stirrer)”.

One reads, “applied to… via agency for… project. Main contact given details. Response to agency—‘not required’. Agency will say—‘job now filled’ as their response to above.”

Disturbingly, the information on workers involved in the Jubilee Line dispute is described as, “Above information arose from liaison between union, contractor and managing agent at J/L).”

In one case, a description of a worker as a “militant” is said to have been “reported by EEPTU [union] official”.

Frequent words on the files are “Co. did not further.” That means that, after the Consulting Association passed on its information, the worker didn’t get the job. It appears thousands of times.

Shadowy league that kept secret blacklist

Private investigator Ian Kerr is the man behind the Consulting Association (CA), the firm that traded illegally held information on trade unionists.

In July 2009 Kerr received a £5,000 fine after pleading guilty to breaching the Data Protection Act. He admitted keeping the clandestine database for 15 years.

Some 44 construction firms gave around £500,000 in five years to Kerr’s agency, before it was shut down.

In among the files is a “Sales Day Book”. It lists the companies, giving each a code number, and lists their payments.

As well as paying an annual fee, firms also paid for requesting information on individual workers.

They paid £2.20 per request in 2009.

The constitution of the CA, seen by Socialist Worker, makes it clear that the firms were not just customers.

The major construction companies that paid an annual £3,000 subscription “collectively” owned the CA.


A chairman, chief executive and finance committee managed the blacklisting organisation. They met regularly. Attendees at meetings had to be at director level or above.

Companies wanting to join the covert operation had to meet agreed criteria relating to company size and management style.

This mirrors the structure of The Economic League—which used to employ Kerr.

This league was formed after a small gang of rich men met in 1919 to discuss how to halt the growing “Red Infection” in Britain.

It adopted the name The Economic League in 1926.

Big business backed it from then on. Balfour Beatty’s then parent company, BICC, gave tens of thousands of pounds to The Economic League during the 1980s.

As well as secretive, right wing lobbying, The Economic League ran a blacklist of thousands of workers. It was wound up in 1993.

The “Service Group” was the section of the Economic League that spied on construction workers.

The older files that the CA held were those of the Economic League.

For background to the case watch Reel News and Blacklist Support Group present: Blacklisted 2012

Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Latest News

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance