Tag Archives: construction

Blacklisting: the scandal continues

1 Feb
by Sarah Glenister

It is shameful that so little has been done to acknowledge the scandal of blacklisting and scandalous that even less has been done to compensate those who have suffered from this vile practice. Last week the Institute of Employment Rights released a comprehensive resource document on blacklisting.

Last week saw an opposition debate in Parliament on blacklisting in the Ruined Livesconstruction industry which called for an immediate investigation into the extent of the practice and an assurance “that appropriate and effective sanctions are in place to tackle and prevent blacklisting”.

During the debate, many passionate speeches were heard from Labour MPs, some of whom have themselves been the victims of blacklisting, and many of whom know of constituents who have had their livelihoods snatched away from them by the practice.

With evidence coming to light through the Scottish Affairs Committee’s Inquiry that the police and the Security Service colluded with the activities of blacklisters in the construction industry, and that blacklisting practices have been rife in public works, including the construction of the Olympic Park, it was also argued that a Leveson-style inquiry must go ahead. Blacklisting has been given important exposure by the Scottish Parliament and we must congratulate MSPs for their determination in forcing this issue up the political agenda.

But the practice of blacklisting is not restricted to the UK alone. The construction companies identified as participating in the blacklisting operation include household names based and operating across Europe including: Skanska (Sweden), Bam (Netherlands), Vinci (France), Laing O’Rourke (Ireland), Sir Robert McAlpine, Balfour Beatty, Kier, Costain, Carillion (UK) to name but a few. It is important therefore that European wide action is taken in response.

The Blacklist Support Group and Professor Keith Ewing of the Institute of Employment Rights fought hard to bring blacklisting to the attention of the EU Commissioner in 2011 and there is now much work taking place at the European level with Stephen Hughes MEP and Glenis Willmott MEP taking up the issue in the European Parliament.

In the light of recent evidence and based on the information gathered in Scotland, EU and now at Westminster, we believe the current blacklisting Regulations now need to be strengthened in the following ways:

  1. There should be a positive right not to be blacklisted and workers who find themselves on a blacklist should have an automatic right to compensation without the burden of proof being placed upon them.
  2. A retroactive compensation scheme should be established to compensate blacklisted workers.
  3. Protection against blacklisting should be extended to include “trade union related activities”.
  4. Blacklisting should be a criminal offence and companies who make use of blacklists should be open to criminal prosecution.
  5. The government’s recently announced Advisory Council for the Construction Industry should be a tripartite body.

Last week the Institute of Employment Rights released a comprehensive resource on blacklisting which looks at the historical practice, Government responses, the legal context, evidence from various investigations and case studies. This resource is free and we encourage you to share it widely.

This post was originally published by Class.

The Shrewsbury 24 call for government to clear their names

23 Jan
The Shrewsbury 24

The Shrewsbury 24

Ricky Tomlinson, along with 23 other building workers who were imprisoned for picketing following the 1972 building workers strike, is calling for the Government to lift the veil of secrecy over prosecutions.

In a press conference at the House of Commons today, Ricky and fellow former pickets will be speaking along with General Secretaries, Frances O’Grady (TUC), Len McCluskey (Unite) and Steve Murphy (UCATT), MPs Tom Watson, Steve Rotheram and David Hanson, and film director Ken Loach. John McDonnell MP will be chairing the conference.

The conference comes as the Shrewsbury 24 step up their campaign to clear their names following the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling’s refusal to release documents relating to the 1972 Shrewsbury trials. Grayling recently informed the pickets that the documents will be withheld from public scrutiny for another 10 years, and the ban will not be reviewed until 2021. His reason? Grayling cites ‘national security’, holding the documents under Section 23 of the Freedom of Information Act.

Ricky Tomlinson, speaking on behalf of himself and his fellow pickets, says:

Ricky Tomlinson

Ricky Tomlinson

 “We were building workers who were trying to get decent wages and working conditions. What’s that got to do with ‘national security’? We were convicted for conspiracy in 1972. We knew we were innocent. The government continue to throw a security blanket over what really happened during the 1972 dispute and the role of the security forces. We believe that the prosecutions were directed by the government.”

The Shrewsbury 24 case began following the major construction strike in 1972, when construction workers faced hostile and powerful employers, lump labour, and isolated workplaces that changed constantly whenever a contract finished. The building workers’ unions organised the first ever national strike in their industry. Due to the nature of the industry, the strike involved the use of picketing of building sites that were spread throughout the country. At the end of the twelve-week dispute, in September 1972, they succeeded in winning the highest ever pay rise in the history of the industry.

Five months after the strike ended, 24 pickets, who had travelled down from North Wales to picket at a site in Shrewsbury, were picked up and charged with over 200 offences including unlawful assembly, intimidation and affray. Six of the pickets were also charged with conspiracy to intimidate. None of the pickets had been cautioned or arrested during the strike. Approximately 70 police had accompanied the pickets on the Shrewsbury building sites at all times. No complaints were laid against the pickets at the time.

At the first Shrewsbury trial three of the pickets were prosecuted and found guilty of conspiracy to intimidate, unlawful assembly and affray. They were sent to prison: Des Warren was sentenced to three years on each charge, Ricky Tomlinson was sentenced to two years on each charge and John McKinsie Jones was sentenced to nine months on each charge, all sentences to run concurrently.

Jailing these building workers remains one of the most notorious acts of the state in recent times. All the might of the police and judiciary were used to stop trade unionists from organising effectively. The Government has used section 23 of the Official Secrets Act to prevent the pickets from gaining access to papers that show the extent of the campaign to send them to prison.

The Shrewsbury 24 Campaign was established in 2006. Their aim is to overturn this miscarriage of justice. All power to them.

To support the Shrewsbury 24, please sign the e-petition calling for the full disclosure of all Government documents relating to the 1972 building workers strike and the conspiracy trials at Shrewsbury.

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