Monday, 5 March 2012

Police and Security Services Role in Blacklist Exposed

After the election of a Labour Government in 1997 there was real optimism that the use of blacklists by employers to discriminate against trade union reps would be outlawed once and for all.

As far back as the 1980s and the operation of an employers' organisation called the Economic League, it became obvious that companies, particularly in construction, were sharing information on trade union shop stewards and health and safety reps to ensure that they were denied work.

Labour included the outlawing of blacklisting in its early Employment Act. Detailed regulations were needed to implement the new law. However time dragged on and no regulations were forthcoming.

From 2000 I started asking questions and raising the issue in debates in Parliament simply asking when the regulations were to be published. It became clear the reason was that this issue was not seen to be a priority and I was told that there was no evidence to confirm that a blacklist was still in operation. The Government argued that it was awaiting evidence from the TUC.

This flew in the face of the hard experiences of trade union activists on sites across the country where shop stewards were losing their jobs and health and safety reps losing job offers.

Then the breakthrough came in 2009 when the Information Commissioner raided the offices of the Consulting Association and discovered a dossier containing a blacklist with 3,200names on it packed full of information supplied to employers on the trade union and political activities of these trade union reps.

At last we had hard and fast evidence that nobody could refute. The Government did then eventually act and before the last election the regulations were published. They were not all that we wanted but at least something was on the statute book.

Now we know from Dave Smith's case against Carillion that the Police and the Security Services were involved in supplying information on the blacklist. What we don't know is how the Police and Security Services provided the information, who provided the information, who knew about this and who authorised it?

Thanks to some excellent reporting by Daniel Boffey of the Observer this issue has now got some press coverage but most of the media have ignored the story.

The phone hacking of 3000, largely,celebrities received wall to wall coverage and has resulted in the setting up of the Leveson inquiry.

3200 workers have been blacklisted and as a result have lost their livelihoods and in many instances had their lives severely damaged.

Doesn't this demand a public inquiry too so that we can discover just what went on and how we can prevent this happening ever again? Or don't workers' lives count as much as celebrities.