Right to Strike campaign responds to Trade Union Bill

July 15, 2015 at 5:09 pm (posted by JD, solidarity, Tory scum, unions, workers)

Say no to anti union laws!

Union branches call for huge mobilisation against Trade Union BillTrade unionists in branches across different unions have come together in a ‘Right to Strike’ campaign which aims to defeat the government’s Trade Union Bill, and fight for the repeal of existing trade union legislation.

Branches of unions including Unite, Unison, and PCS have signed up to the campaign, which is urging the TUC to call a national demonstration against the bill.

The government’s bill proposes turnout thresholds for strike ballots, an ‘opt-in’ system for union political funds, tighter picketing restrictions, and limits on time reps spend on union duties.

“Trade union rights are democratic rights,” said Ruth Cashman of the Right to Strike campaign committee. “No other voluntary organisations in society face as much interference in their internal affairs as trade unions. It is the height of hypocrisy for a government elected by just 24% of the public to tell us that we need a minimum turnout to carry out our democratic decisions.”

“This is an ideological move designed to push legitimate trade unionism outside the law. We need to start talking about what our responses to this law will be, starting with a huge trade union mobilisation to defeat it,” said Edd Mustill, a branch official in the Unite union. “We are working with others in the movement such as the Campaign for Trade Union Freedom to make sure the unions take a real stand.”

The Right to Strike campaign is organising regional meetings and local actions against the bill in the coming days and weeks.

The Right to Strike campaign was launched by a number of union branches in June 2015 to campaign against the government’s proposed Trade Union Bill. It has received rank-and-file support from across the trade union movement and its Facebook page, ‘Right to Strike,’ reached 1000 ‘likes’ in a week.

The campaign can be contacted at ourrighttostrike@gmail.com and by the following phone numbers: 07455158249, 07930845494, 07505514610, 07784641808.

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Iran arrests leader of teachers’ union

July 10, 2015 at 12:56 pm (Education, Eric Lee, internationalism, LabourStart, posted by JD, solidarity, unions, workers)

Your protests needed right now – Iran arrests leader of teachers’ union

A LabourStart Appeal by Eric Lee

Esmail Abdi, a leader of the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association, was arrested on 27 June following his attempt to obtain a visa to attend the 7th Education International World Congress in Ottawa, Canada in late July.
After his passport was confiscated at the border, he was ordered to return to Tehran to meet with prosecutors. However, upon reporting to the prosecutors’ office he was arrested while more than 70 teachers waited outside in support.

Protest now: http://www.labourstart.org/go/esmail

Abdi’s arrest comes after nationwide rallies were held earlier this year to protest wages that leave the majority of teachers below the poverty line.
The Education International is deeply concerned about the repression facing representatives of the Coordinating Council of Iranian Teachers Trade Associations and has asked us to launch this very urgent campaign.
It will only take you a minute — please send your message off now:

http://www.labourstart.org/go/esmail
Please share this with your friends, family and fellow union members — and with any teachers you know.

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Scottish Labour: turn outwards … or close down?

June 18, 2015 at 11:46 am (labour party, posted by JD, scotland, Sheridan, SSP, unions)

Letter from Scotland, by Dale Street (cross-posted from Workers Liberty)

Kezia Dugdale
Above: Kezia Dugdale voted for Murphy’s “reforms”

“Can the Scottish Labour Party listen and learn from its defeat on 7 May?” asked Katy Clark, former Labour MP for North Ayrshire and Arran, at last Saturday’s Campaign for Socialism (CfS) conference in Glasgow.

The 70-plus Scottish Labour members attending the event were clear about some of the things that Labour needed to do in response to that question. The same cannot be said of the Scottish Labour Executive Committee, meeting at the same time.

Speakers at the CfS conference emphasised the need for local Labour Party branches to turn outwards and campaign alongside of trade unionists and community groups, instead of just going door-knocking and asking for people’s votes.

As an appeal from one of the strikers in the Glasgow City Council homelessness caseworkers dispute highlighted, this includes campaigning against Labour-controlled local authorities which implement Westminster and Holyrood austerity dictates.

The need to expose the SNP’s record in power at Holyrood since 2007 was also emphasised: cuts in Further Education, growing inequalities in educational attainment in schools, real cuts in NHS spending, undemocratic centralisation, and not a single redistributive policy.

(Other than the council tax freeze, which serves as a tax cut for the better off.)

In fact, the SNP’s only real achievement over the past decade has been to replace class-based political affiliations and voting patterns by ones based on Scottish national identity, for which the enemy is not unaccountable wealth and power but “Westminster”.

In a conference session on trade unionism in Scotland a speaker from the Fire Brigades Union highlighted the reality of what the “left-wing” SNP and its policies mean for unions. Read the rest of this entry »

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Unite and Labour: an open letter to Nick Cohen

June 7, 2015 at 4:11 pm (AWL, democracy, labour party, posted by JD, red-baiting, socialism, unions, Unite the union, workers)

article_update_3a2b80c56b171d26_1373032762_9j-4aaqsk.jpeg 
Above: Unite general secretary Len McCluskey: bogeyman for Tories and Blairites alike

Nick,

I’d guess you still regard yourself as being on the left. So why was one of your first comments after the election an attack on the trade union movement from the right?

You can say you weren’t attacking trade unions as such, but that’s how your Spectator article read – particularly when it was published in the house magazine of the Tory right. At a time when the Tories are proposing new attacks on workers’ right to strike and on trade unions’ right to fund a political voice, you chose specifically to assail trade union involvement in politics.

What struck me about your article was how fluently it combined left-sounding arguments with right-wing conclusions.

What sense does it make to point out that “poverty and inequality are everywhere growing in part because of the shocking failure of the trade union movement” to organise the unorganised – but then condemn, not unions’ lack of boldness and militancy, but “sectarian poses that will stop Labour building broad alliances with everyone from the church leaders to Liberal Democrats”?

In this article at least, you do not criticise more right-wing unions affiliated to the Labour Party – eg Unison, whose leadership is so determined to prevent rank-and-file control of its structures and grassroots campaigning that, to take just one instance, it drove out hundreds of low-paid, precarious outsourced workers at University of London. Instead you focused solely on Unite, the main union being targeted by the capitalist media – targeted for allegedly being too left-wing.

Shamefully, you repeat the Blairite/Tory/media lie that Unite has “used its influence to rig selections”, adding in the same breath that it has “sponsored Labour MPs in Westminster”. (The latter is a problem, why? In fact the problem is that Unite fails to hold most of these MPs to its account.) At the same time you say nothing about the Labour leadership’s continual abuses of party democracy and rigging of internal processes (including in Tower Hamlets – and Falkirk).

It is bizarre that you condemn Unite’s forcing out of Jim Murphy – hardly an electoral success story or an ally of low paid workers! Worst of all, your main solution is for the Labour Party to “show Unite the door”.

Whether this means expelling Unite specifically, or ending the Labour’s union link more broadly, what you are promoting is essentially an ultra version of the program of the Blairite right wing of the party.

You’re right that Labour’s program in the election was “incoherent” and “failed to convince millions of voters”. You’re also right that supporting the SNP is wrong; that backing for Lutfur Rahman shows the left going astray; and that McCluskey’s chief of staff Andrew Murray is an extreme representative of the Stalinist politics deeply entrenched in the union.

But such criticisms are useless when combined with de facto support for the Blairites.

The political forces on the right of the Labour Party which, intentionally or not, you are lining up with are enemies of workers’ interests. They are deeply implicated in the weakening of the labour movement, its failure to take opportunities to build its strength, its abdication from struggle after struggle – both through the policies they have pursued, in government and opposition, and their baleful influence over most union leaders (including ones, like McCluskey, who see themselves as being on the left).

Unite needs to be criticised not from the right, but from the left – for insufficient aggressiveness and militancy, for lack of political boldness, for not taking its own agreed policies and strategies seriously, and for failing to inform, inspire, educate and mobilise its members as an essential part of recruiting more. Part of that is its failure to really push forward in the Labour Party, not only declining to campaign for its own policies but more than once voting against them in deference to the Labour leaders (eg voting at Labour’s National Policy Forum in favour of continuing public sector cuts). The latest example is what looks like backing for Andy Burnham over left-winger Jeremy Corbyn in the party leadership race – despite the fact that Corbyn champions numerous Unite policies and Burnham champions almost none.

Issues with what it advocates aside, the fundamental problem with regards to Labour is not that Unite has exercised too much influence over the party, but that it has exercised too little.

For sure, McCluskey et al’s flirtation with walking away from Labour is part of the problem. But this tendency is determined above all by the Unite leaders’ refusal to consider the alternative of launching and carrying through a serious political fight. Least of all is the answer to justify the drive from the Labour right to wipe out union influence in the party. The Unite leadership’s “strategy” should be attacked not for challenging the Labour leaders, but for helping them – in some cases directly and in some through lack of fight.

I would argue that Unite’s current approach has provided ammunition for the labour movement’s enemies, external and internal, without doing much to actually push them back, win gains and make progress. That is very different from regarding Unite itself as an enemy, as you seem to.

You write that after what you regard as “the death of socialism, [many on the left, including in Unite] go along with any movement however corrupt or reactionary… against the status quo”.

Arguing that socialism is dead is bad enough. You also seem to believe that, as a logical corollary, militant trade unionism is and should be dead too. Given that, all that is left is a “non-sectarian” lash up with Blairites, Lib Dems, church leaders – and presumably employers.

This is a recipe to (even) further disorient and demoralise the left. The real left – those who are serious about turning our labour movement around – will oppose and fight the ideas and program your Spectator article suggests.

Yours

Sacha Ismail
Alliance for Workers Liberty

PS I just saw your second article, about Unite suing you. Obviously this is absurd and wrong, a scandalous abuse of Unite members’ money. But I don’t think what you write about it changes anything fundamental in the political argument.

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Stalinists tie themselves in knots over EU referendum

May 25, 2015 at 5:29 pm (democracy, elections, Europe, internationalism, Jim D, labour party, stalinism, Tory scum, unions)

Image result for morning star logo

The Communist Party of Britain and its mouthpiece the Morning Star, are all over the place on the forthcoming EU referendum. Never mind their contortions over Tory plans to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights (and – yes – I am aware that the ECHR is separate from the EU, but the Stalinists’ arguments about ‘unaccountable transnational bodies’ and the need for ‘national sovereignty’ logically should apply as much to the  ECHR as to the EU).

As recently as its May 9-10 edition, the Morning Star carried this wretched piece of ‘analysis’ of the general election result, including the following criticism of Labour:

“Support for an EU referendum and a more critical attitude towards EU anti-democratic institutions and neo-liberal policies might have stopped at least some working-class voters defecting to Ukip.”

Now, have a read of this, from today’s (May 25) Morning Star:

No vote for membership for EU citizens


May
2015
Monday 25th
posted by Morning Star in Britain

Labour drops opposition to in/out vote


by Our News Desk

MOST EU citizens living in Britain will be barred from voting in the referendum on whether to sever ties with Brussels, Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday.

The franchise for the referendum, promised by the end of 2017, will be based on that for a general election — meaning Irish, Maltese and Cypriots resident in Britain will get a vote, but other EU citizens will not.

Details about the planned public vote were revealed as European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was due to hold talks with Mr Cameron at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country residence.

Legislation for the referendum will be introduced to Parliament on Thursday — the day after the Queen’s speech.

A Number 10 source said: “This is a big decision for our country, one that is about the future of the United Kingdom. That’s why we think it’s important that it is British, Irish and Commonwealth citizens that are the ones who get to decide.”

It comes after Labour’s acting leader Harriet Harman announced a U-turn on the issue, saying her party would now support Mr Cameron’s planned in/out referendum on EU membership.

She said: “We have now had a general election and reflected on the conversations we had on doorsteps throughout the country.

“The British people want to have a say on the UK’s membership of the European Union. Labour will therefore now support the EU referendum Bill when it comes before the House of Commons.”

Ms Harman added that the party will “make the case for our continued membership” and does not want to see Britain “stumble inadvertently towards EU exit.”

But unions have warned against Labour kowtowing to Tory wishes on the issue after Ms Harman accepted she shared some of the PM’s concerns about the need for reform, including freedom of movement.

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said Labour “must not give Cameron a blank cheque and should beware of the CBI agenda to turn the clock back on employment rights.”

He added: “Labour is sleepwalking into a two-step Europe, with UK workers having the worst rights in the EU for which a big price will later be paid by the party at elections.”

*******************************************************************************************************

It’s difficult to know were to start in commenting upon this level of political incoherence: having urged Labour to drop its opposition to the Tories’ referendum, the Star now (fairly obviously approvingly) quotes unions warning against Labour “kowtowing to Tory wishes on the issue” and the danger of “turn(ing) the clock back on employment rights.”

Didn’t you realise that attacking employment rights (along with attacking immigrants) is what the campaign for a referendum has always been all about, you Stalinist muppets?

The pitiful incoherence of the little-England Stalinists would be almost laughable, if it wasn’t so dangerous to working class interests.

We need a socialist campaign to critically defend the limited working class gains that have come from EU membership, and to oppose the little-England, racist and anti-working class anti-EU campaign of both right and “left”.

NB: See also Comrade Coatesy

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Scottish Labour and Unite: Murphy and the Blairites are the “kiss of death”, not McCluskey!

May 18, 2015 at 8:03 am (democracy, elections, labour party, posted by JD, reformism, scotland, unions, Unite the union)

By Dale Street

When Jim Murphy announced last Saturday that he was standing down as Scottish Labour Party leader, he took it as an opportunity to lambast Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey for his supposedly “destructive behaviour” towards the Labour Party.

Murphy claimed that he had been “at the centre of a campaign by the London leadership of Unite the Union, (who) blame myself or the Scottish Labour Party for the defeat of the UK Labour Party in the general election.”

He continued:

“Sometimes people see it as a badge of honour to have Mr. McCluskey’s support. I see it as a kiss of death to be supported by that type of politics. … We cannot have our leaders selected or deselected by the grudges and grievances of one prominent man.”

“The leader of the Scottish Labour Party doesn’t serve at the grace of Len McCluskey, and the next leader of the UK Labour Party should not be picked by Len McCluskey.”

Len McCluskey has twice been elected Unite’s General Secretary, in 2010 and again in 2013.

If McCluskey really is guilty of “destructive behaviour” and his politics the “kiss of death”, then the Unite members who have twice elected him their General Secretary must be either: really thick not to have seen through him; or willing accomplices of his destructive behaviour.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Fiery speech by female Iranian teacher on strike over pay

May 15, 2015 at 7:50 am (Civil liberties, Human rights, Iran, posted by JD, protest, secularism, solidarity, unions, workers)

From For A Democratic Secular Iran:

This footage below was sent to me by one of the teachers taking part in the widespread strike by the Iranian teachers. They are demanding better pay and conditions.

The video shows a fiery speech made by a female teacher. See the translation below:

“Most of the martyrs in the war were from our ranks, the teachers and pupils, so we have paid our fair share for this revolution, but sadly we have received the least just rewards for our sacrifices, during these days of strike, I read things that saddened me, I want to address the Friday Prayer leaders who in their sermons speak against us teachers, they say “when a teacher talks about money, it means knowledge has been abandoned in exchange for wealth”! I ask these clerics who have put on the prophet’s robes, who wear the messenger of Allah’s turban on their heads, why is it that when wealth comes your way, it doesn’t mean your religion has been abandoned for wealth? Why is it that most of the factories are owned by your lot? [crowds applause] Is religion just for me, a teacher? I am proud that I am a teacher, we are the faithful servants of real Islam, for us the first teacher is God and then his messengers, yet they say if there is talk of free lunch somewhere, the teachers will run to there, this is sad, Yes, I, a teacher am hungry, because there are many greedy stomachs in our country, [crowds applause] Yes, I a teacher have no money, because all the cash has been plundered by the children of the officials running the country, [crowds applause] My pockets are empty, because the sons and daughters of this country have such grand villas in Canada and European countries, [crowds applause] ..”

Act Now! Iranian regime persecutes trade unionists

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Keep Unite affiliated! No new Popular Front!

May 12, 2015 at 5:58 am (Champagne Charlie, class collaboration, John Rees, labour party, stalinism, unions, Unite the union)


Andrew Murray: Popular Frontist

” … the [Labour] party’s leaders in parliament know that if they were to lose Unite, there could be an English Syriza formed with more resources and dynamism than the party it would replace” – Counterfire

It hasn’t been widely publicised, but for the last couple of years Unite leader Len McCluskey has been saying that in the event of Labour losing the general election, Unite would seriously consider disaffiliating from the party.

Many of us considered this a bizarre position to take: surely the aftermath of a Labour defeat, and the ensuing ideological struggle between the Blairite right and various more left-wing currents, is precisely the time when affiliated unions should be exerting their influence?

McCluskey’s strange position seems to have been a concession to anti-Labour forces within the union, which include the Socialist Party (and their pathetic TUSC electoral front), various free-lance syndicalists within the United Left, a significant number of Scottish members (antagonised by Miliband’s handling of the Falkirk row, and now pro-SNP), and -perhaps most importantly – his  ‘Chief of Staff’ Andrew Murray, to whom he has in effect sub-contracted the running of politics within the union. Murray, a member of the Communist Party of Britain who is on record supporting North Korea, has a record of deciding the union’s political “line” without reference to the union’s executive, in accordance with his own Stalinist predilections.

Murray is part of the current within the CPB that favoured closer links with Galloway and Respect and, through his  prominent involvement in the Stop The War Coalition also has a close relationship with John Rees, Lindsey German and their small ex-Trotskyist organisation Counterfire.

This influence over the union’s leadership accounts for the enormous resources Unite has poured into Counterfire’s initiative The People’s Assembly, the union’s declared (but undebated) support for Lutfur Rahman in Tower Hamlets, and also for McCluskey’s unwillingness to call for a Labour vote in Scotland.

Counterfire and its Stalinist friends have two prominent supporters in the mainstream press, Seumas Milne (in the Guardian) and Owen Jones (in the Independent and New Statesman), both of whom, immediately prior to the election, were promoting the idea of a popular frontist anti-Tory coalition, and the idea that a Tory minority government would be, in effect, a ‘coup’ against the anti-Tory parliamentary majority. There was even a ‘Counterfire’-inspired proposal for a demonstration against the ‘coup’, although this didn’t take place under its planned slogans, due to the reality of the Tory absolute majority.

Counterfire is a small and politically insignificant outfit, but via Murray, it wields influence within Unite (despite the fact that it has only one known member within the union!) Therefore when articles like this and this appear on the Counterfire website, Unite activists who understand the vital political importance of maintaining the Labour link, should prepare for battle against the defeatists, class collaborationists and syndicalists  who’ll be arguing for a break with Labour and the creation of  a lash-up with the SNP, the Greens and even (according to the schema put forward by Murray’s pal Seumas Milne) sections of the Lib Dems! They may present it as “an English Syriza” reacting to the “Pasokification” of Labour (“English” because the SNP’s autonomy in Scotland must be respected), but in reality it would be a new variation on an old, class-collaborationist theme: the Popular Front.

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A call for solidarity with the workers of Iran

May 1, 2015 at 5:59 pm (Civil liberties, class, democracy, Iran, posted by JD, solidarity, unions, workers)


Above: workers protesting in front of the Iranian Parliament, January 2015

Statement co-ordinated by Codir (Committee for the Defence of Iranian People’s Rights)

On May Day 2015, we, the representatives of trade unions around the world, raise our voice again in solidarity with the struggle of Iranian workers and trade unionists for fundamental rights and better pay and working conditions. In pursuit of our call on 1 August 2013 on the eve of the inauguration of the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, we once again call on him to fulfil the promises he made during his 2013 election campaign to act on the legitimate demands of Iranian workers for a decent living wage and the right to form, join and belong to a trade union of their choice.

We remind the Iranian president that two years after his election on a platform of undertakings to respond to the demands of Iranian people, unemployment is still high and increasing, inflation is sky high, prices of basic and essential goods are out of the reach of workers, wages are not paid on time and destitution has reached catastrophic levels. Conventions on health and safety are openly flouted. Since last July, large groups of workers – including miners, auto workers, teachers, nurses and others, in all provinces – have taken to the streets and demonstrated outside the Iranian Parliament to demand their legitimate rights. These rights are set out in international conventions such as ILO Conventions 87 and 98. It is only by the President and his government responding to these legitimate demands that working people in Iran and their trade union brothers and sisters across the world can be confident that they can rely on his words.

Over the years we have continuously received verified reports of workers and trade unionists being arrested, imprisoned, fired and deprived of their livelihood. Currently, a number of trade union activists are serving prison sentences for the sole ‘offence’ of being trade unionists and campaigning for workers’ rights, decent wages and improved working conditions. We hold that no workers should be detained in prison for demanding their internationally accepted rights.

The trades unions supporting this May Day Call to Action are united in calling upon the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to:

  • Release immediately all trade unionists imprisoned for their trade union activities, including Ali-Reza Hashemi (General Secretary, Teachers’ Association), Rassoul Bodaghi (Teachers’ Association), Mahmood Bagheri (Teachers’ Association), Mohammad Davari (Teachers’ Association), Abdulreza Ghanabri (Teachers’ Association), Shahrokh Zamani (Painters’ and Decorators’ Union), Behnam Ebrahimdzadeh (Painters’ and Decorators’ Union), Mohammad Jarrahi (Painters’ and Decorators’ Union), Mahmoud Salehi (Kurdish trade unionist), Ebrahim Madadi ( the Union of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company- Sherkat-e Vahed) and Davoud Razavi ( the Union of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company- Sherkat-e Vahed);
  • Halt the sacking of trade unionists and workers’ activists on the basis of their trade union activities and reinstate those who have lost their jobs for campaigning for workers’ rights;
  • Remove all obstacles preventing Iranian workers from forming independent trade unions and joining trade unions in accordance with ILO Conventions 87 (freedom of association) and 98 (collective bargaining); and
  • Lift the ban on the right of workers to commemorate and celebrate May Day, organise May Day events and mark 1 May as a national holiday.

Signatories:

IndustriALL Global Union,
ICTUR (International Centre for Trade Union Rights),
TUC,
Amnesty UK Trade Union Network,
UNITE,
NUT,
UNISON,
RMT,
FBU,
NUJ,
PEO (Pancyprian Federation of Labour),
Petrol-Is (Petroleum, Chemical and Rubber Workers’ Union, Turkey),
Tekgida-Is (Union of Tobacco, Beverage, Food and Related Industry Workers of Turkey),
TUMTIS (All Transport Workers’ Union of Turkey),
Deriteks (Leather, Weaving and Textile Workers’ Union of Turkey),
Tezkoop-Is (Union of Commerce Education Office and Fine Arts Workers of Turkey), Belediye-Is (Municipal and General Workers’ Union of Turkey),
Kristal-Is (Cement, Glass & Soil Industries Workers’ Union of Turkey),
Basin-Is (Printing Publishing Packaging and Graphical Workers’ Union of Turkey),
TGS (Journalists Union of Turkey),
CODIR (Committee for the Defence of Iranian People’s Rights).

 

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‘Blacklisted’ review

April 26, 2015 at 6:30 pm (AWL, Civil liberties, class, class collaboration, cops, corruption, good people, Human rights, Jim D, solidarity, unions, Unite the union, workers)

This review should appear in the next issue of the AWL’s paper Solidarity, as (I understand) part of a feature on blacklisting:

Blacklisted – The secret war between big business and union activists

By Dave Smith and Phil Chamberlain (pub: New Internationalist)

*********************

Trades unionists have known for decades that employers operated blacklists, whereby records were kept on militants and activists (and, indeed, not particularly militant or active trade unionists) in order to exclude them from employment. The practice was especially rife in the construction industry, where simply raising a concern over health and safety could be enough to ensure that you never found work. Countless working class lives were destroyed by the blacklist.

For many years a central blacklist was managed, operated and sold to major employers by an outfit called the Economic League, which in the 1970s employed around 160 staff and was receiving over £400,000 a year in subscriptions and donations. When media exposure (notably the campaigning journalism of Paul Foot in the Mirror) lead to the collapse of the League in 1993, its work was taken over by an organisation called the Services Group (formed by the big construction companies as it became apparent to them that the League might not survive), and then The Consulting Association (TCA), which obtained the Economic League’s database, and expanded and updated it, with files on thousands of workers, including National Insurance numbers, vehicle registrations, press cuttings and comments from managers.

Again, it was construction companies who were the main (but not only) subscribers, using the organisation as a covert vetting operation to monitor job applicants. All the biggest names in construction – Carillion, Balfour Beatty, Skanska, Keir, Costain and McAlpine – made use of TCA information to exclude job applicants and to sack workers already on site.

TCA was eventually exposed and brought down in 2009 following a raid on their premises by the Information Commissioner’s Office, the body that enforces the Data Protection Act. Blacklisting was not, then, in itself illegal, but breaches of the Data Protection Act were. TCA’s database was confiscated and found to contain the details of 3,213 construction workers.

As a result of the raid, the subsequent publicity and dogged lobbying by the construction union, UCATT (and to a lesser degree, Unite), the Labour government finally introduced legislation (the Blacklists Regulations 2010 – an amendment to the Employment Relations Act 1999) making it unlawful for an employer or employment agency to refuse employment, to dismiss, or to cause detriment to a worker for a reason related to a blacklist and provides for a minimum £5,000 compensation award at a tribunal. But this was , at best, a very small step forward and contained at least one major loophole: as it is civil, not criminal, legislation, it can only be enforced by an individual to bring a claim to an Employment Tribunal; and (as the Blacklisting Support Group pointed out when the legislation was under consultation), blacklisted workers can only bring claims against the companies that refused to employ them, which will often be small sub-contractors, and not the big companies actually doing the blacklisting.

This scandal is described in meticulous detail in the new book ‘Blacklisted –  The secret war between big business and union activists’ by Blacklisting Support Group (BSG) founding member Dave Smith and investigative journalist Phil Chamberlain.

Perhaps the most fascinating revelations in the book are interviews with HR managers and bosses involved in blacklisting, several of whom claim that they obtained information from officials of UCATT and the EEPTU. It should be emphasised that both UCATT and Unite (the union that now includes what used to be the EEPTU) have cleaned up their acts and now both take a firm stand against blacklisting. However, the book describes a meeting of the Blacklist Support Group in February 2013, at which a BSG speaker, Steve Acheson, was barracked by senior members of UCATT, who accused him of making allegations of union collusion without evidence and demanded he “name names”: in response, Acheson held up a handwritten note from former TCA manager Ian Kerr and said: “If you want me to name names, I will: the name that appears on this note is George Guy” (Guy is a former senior official and acting General Secretary of UCATT: the book notes that he “vigorously denies” the allegation).

This superbly-researched and very readable book was launched in March at a meeting in Parliament at which John McDonnell MP read out a statement from Peter Francis, a former undercover cop who spent four years as part of the Met’s Special Demonstration Squad. Francis’s statement said he infiltrated Unison, the FBU, CWU, NUT and NUS. He had previously infiltrated anti-racist organisations and the Militant Tendency. The Economic League and The Consulting Association may be gone, but blacklisting, spying and dirty tricks against trade unionists and other activists continues – often, it would seem, by the forces of the state.

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