We need a public inquiry into blacklisting

28th November, 2012 3:00 pm

Last month I wrote an article for LabourList explaining the background to the blacklisting scandal in the construction industry and calling for a public inquiry to ensure that the blacklisted victims receive justice. Today I am renewing that call.

In the space of a few weeks the blacklisting saga has moved forward rapidly.

Jim Kennedy UCATT’s National Political Officer and I gave evidence to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee on October 30th, as part of their inquiry into blacklisting. During our evidence we revealed how the Consulting Association’s (the organisation which undertook construction blacklisting) invoices revealed that the blacklisting activity of construction company Sir Robert McAlpine increased dramatically, when they began building the Olympic Stadium in the summer of 2008.

Last week the joint unions involved in the blacklisting campaign GMB, Unite and UCATT wrote to all Labour MPs, providing details about how they could contact the Information Commissioner’s Office to check whether they had been blacklisted. This week (Tuesday 27th November), Ian Kerr the Chief Officer of the Consulting Association, who is the only person convicted of blacklisting and then only for data protection offences, gave evidence to the Select Committee.

Kerr’s evidence was illuminating as he described how the Consulting Association conducted its operations but it also raised many further questions.

On one point he was clear – blacklisting did take place on the Olympics before the Consulting Association was shutdown. Kerr said: “Robert McAlpine, Balfour Beatty and possibly Skanska” were involved in blacklisting workers on the Olympics.

He also confirmed that blacklisting was also regularly undertaken on many PFI hospital projects and that at the time of the Consulting Association’s demise, talks were ongoing about how blacklisting would operate on Crossrail.

Kerr’s confession demonstrates beyond doubt that taxpayers’ money which construction companies should have been using to build the Olympics and other major public projects, was being siphoned off to pay for the blacklisting of workers.

One of the greatest causes of concern has been the revelations that information received from the police and the security forces was used to blacklist workers. Kerr drew light on this by saying that he had not directly colluded with the police and the security forces and that this information had been provided to him by the main contacts in the construction companies.

Kerr also alluded to special attention being applied to Irish nationals, a huge section of the construction industry, seeking work on Ministry of Defence projects.

This raises further serious questions about how and why senior people at the blacklisting construction companies were involved in receiving and passing information about construction workers with the police and the security forces. We need answers about just how far the state was involved in colluding with the blacklisters and ruining the lives of construction workers.

Kerr also revealed for the first time that blacklisting was not confined to trade unionists and left-wing activists. A separate file was established on environmental activists following the high profile campaigns to block new roads including at Twyford Downs and the M11 extension.

UCATT has always believed that the Consulting Association was not the only blacklisting organisation in construction.

Kerr confirmed that he was aware of at least one other organisation that ran a blacklisting operation and that other “individuals had accrued information”. Kerr also said that he believed that blacklisting was continuing “in some form or another.”

Given these revelations it is essential that the whole truth of this scandal which ruined the lives of many construction workers is revealed once and for all.

UCATT are currently lobbying MPs to sign Early Day Motion 609 tabled by Steve Rotheram which calls for a public inquiry into blacklisting and for blacklisting to become a specific criminal offence.

Further details about the blacklisting scandal and information about how to contact your MP to ask them to sign the EDM can be found at www.ucatt.org.uk/blacklisting.

It only takes a minute to contact your MP and help finally win justice for the blacklist victims.

Steve Murphy is the General Secretary of UCATT

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