Newly released report proves police collusion with blacklisting

Blacklist Support Group news release

On Wednesday 6 March 2019, the 10th Anniversary of the building industry blacklist being exposed, a newly released police report proves that the police shared information with the blacklist over decades.

Major construction firms such as Sir Robert McAlpine, Carillion and Balfour Beatty funded the now notorious Consulting Association and the Economic League to spy on and deny work to union members who raised concerns about safety.

The Creedon Report into Operation Reuben, the internal police investigation into blacklisting was disclosed by the Metropolitan Police to lawyers representing the Blacklist Support Group, because of there core participant status in the public inquiry into undercover policing.

The key findings of the 70 page report include admissions that:

  •  “Police, including Special Branches and the Security Services supplied information to the blacklist funded by the country’s major construction firms, The Consulting Association”  (para 4.2)
  • “Special Branches throughout the UK had direct contact with the Economic League” (para 13.1.2)
  • The Metropolitan Police Special Branch Industrial Unit spied on union members “from teaching to the docks, attending conferences, and protests personally, and also developing well placed confidential contacts” (para 6.11)
  • Undercover police officer Mark Jenner, who infiltrated the construction union UCATT gathered intelligence on “over 300 individuals”  (para 11.8.3)
  • Another police unit, the National Extremism and Tactical Coordination Unit (NETCU) gave a PowerPoint presentation to a meeting of the Consulting Association (11.6.6)
  • Police sharing information with big business and other bodies about prospective employees continues to this day through the Industrial Liaison Section within the National Domestic Extremism Unit (para 11.1.17)

Roy Bentham, joint secretary of Blacklist Support Group, commented:  “The police are supposed to uphold law and order, not spy on perfectly democratic organisations such as trade unions. Blacklisting is a national scandal and confirmation that the police colluded with this shameful and unlawful activity is beyond the pale.

“Justice demands a full stand alone public inquiry into this disgraceful human rights conspiracy between big business and the UK’s political police.”

Imran Khan QC, lawyer for the Blacklist Support Group at the undercover policing public inquiry, commented: “This report is official confirmation of a process which many workers in the construction industry knew or suspected was going on for a long time.

“Many thousands of  lives were ruined as a result of what can only be described as deplorable conduct on the part of the police. The UCPI has duty to now dig even deeper to discover the true extent of what the police did and hold them to account for their actions.”

  •  Blacklist Support Group 10th anniversary parliamentary meeting, 5pm Wednesday 6 March 2019, Committee Room 10, Houses of Parliament

Confirmed speakers:

  • John McDonnell MP
  • Imran Khan QC
  • Gail Cartmail AGS Unite the union
  • ‘Alison’ ex-partner of undercover police officer Mark Jenner
  • Chris Stephens MP
  • John Hendy QC

Unite pledges to drag key blacklisting boss Cullum McAlpine before the courts

A construction boss who played a pivotal role in orchestrating a blacklisting scandal that targeted union safety activists will face the courts, the union Unite has pledged.

The union said it “is closing in” on Cullum McAlpine who it wants to account for his actions in court. Unite is taking fresh legal action on behalf of workers who were blacklisted by the Consulting Association. Most of the major construction companies in the UK used its services.

Unlike the previous court case which concluded in 2016, Unite says it will be seeking to ensure Cullum McAlpine, the original chair of the Consulting Association and a director of UK construction giant Sir Robert McAlpine, is required to give evidence in court under oath. The trial is set to begin on 4 June and could last for six weeks.

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “Unite is totally committed to ensuring that the key individuals behind blacklisting workers and ruining their lives as a result are required to account for their crimes in the public arena of a court.”

He added: “This is the minimum that the affected workers deserve. They need to see those responsible in the dock and finally forced to account for their actions. The forthcoming court case will finally ensure this will happen.”

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “There remain employers in construction and other industries who continue to believe it is somehow acceptable to engage in the disgusting and deceitful practice of blacklisting, to ruin people’s lives.

“We are seeing blacklisting ‘outsourced’ to labour suppliers at the beck and call of large firms and acting as unaccountable instigators of union busting. That’s why Unite is still fighting for justice for those who were previously affected but is also fighting to stamp out contemporary blacklisting.”

Blacklisting dispute looms at Crossrail

The Crossrail project could face industrial action over the firing of a well-regarded union safety activist. The looming dispute centres around Birmingham electrician Martin Overy, a former Unite safety rep who was dismissed last week only five hours after signing his contract with the electrical contractor Site Operative Solutions Limited (SOS) at Paddington station.

Overy features on the notorious Consulting Association blacklist and in 2016 was awarded damages in the major blacklisting trial at the High Court which saw eight construction giants agree a massive compensation payout.  However, the skilled electrician reports that he has struggled to find and stay in employment.

Paddington station is under the control of the Swedish multinational Skanska, one of the defendants in the High Court litigation. It has publicly apologised for its role in the blacklisting scandal.

But the union-supported Blacklist Support Group (BSG) says the company has since been accused repeatedly of involvement in “contemporary ongoing blacklisting after FOI requests highlighted emails that showed union members were being kept under surveillance.”

BSG says the Crossrail project has been dogged by claims of blacklisting. A parliamentary select committee was told that Frank Morris, a UNITE shop steward, was dismissed from the project after his name appeared in a list of ‘troublemakers’.

Roy Bentham, the BSG joint secretary and a Unite executive council member commented: “In an industry with such an appalling fatality record, workers who are prepared to raise concerns about safety should be valued but instead the treatment of Martin Overy seems a blatant case of blacklisting.

“Both Crossrail and Skanska have got form on blacklisting and we’re not going to sit back and let this happen again. If Martin isn’t reinstated, rank and file industrial action is unstoppable.”

Victims praise Lush stand on the spycops scandal

Cosmetics brand Lush has been praised by campaigners for its nationwide campaign to raise awareness of the ‘spycops’ scandal, which has seen union, safety, environmental and other activists’ groups infiltrated by undercover police officers.

Displays condemning the police strategy appeared in Lush stores last week. Customers were also asked to sign a postcard urging home secretary Sajid Javid – who has criticised the Lush action – to appoint a panel of experts to the inquiry, expand its remit to Scotland and to release the personal files of victims.

The company commented: “This campaign is not about the real police work done by those front line officers who support the public every day – it is about a controversial branch of political undercover policing that ran for many years before being exposed.

“Our campaign is to highlight this small and secretive subset of undercover policing that undermines and threatens the very idea of democracy.”

Blacklist Support Group secretary Dave Smith, who was blacklisted for his union safety activities and was involved in groups infiltrated by undercover officers, praised Lush founder Mark Constantine.

“He promised to publicise the spycops issue in every store across the UK and he has lived up to his word.” Smith criticised secrecy in the ongoing Mitting inquiry into undercover policing, adding: “In its current form, the public inquiry is heading towards being a good old-fashioned Establishment whitewash.”

Union construction safety campaigns were among those infiltrated by undercover police officers.

The Metropolitan Police has admitted passing the information it obtained on construction safety campaigners to the Consulting Association, an illegal blackilsting organisation financed by major construction companies.

The association was shutdown by the Information Commissioner’s Office in 2009.

Leading politicians, lawyers, union officials and victims of the undercover policing scandal have all signed an open letter defending Lush in the wake of criticism of the company’s campaign.

The shadow chancellor John McDonnell and union leaders Len McCluskey, Matt Wrack and Manuel Cortes are among the signatories.

The former wives of undercover cops whose partners started secret relationships and sometimes second families with targeted activists under assumed names, have also backed the Lush stance.

Blacklisting Day of Action – Wednesday 6 December 2017

Protests are planned across the UK plus a lobby of MPs at Westminster. The Blacklist Support Group is urging supporters to publicise the events and where possible to attend. Bring your banners and wear your ‘Blacklisted’ t-shirts with pride.

Lobby of Westminster parliament
Assemble at Old Palace Yard, Westminster, SW1P 3JY

12pm – Rally with speakers from Unite including Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary
1pm – Photo call with MPs
2pm – Meeting with MPs in the Boothroyd room – please note, this is in Portcullis House not the Palace of Westminster
4pm finish & pre-Xmas drinks

• Full public inquiry into blacklisting
• Make blacklisting a criminal offence
• No public contracts for companies involved in blacklisting

61 MILLION REASONS WHY THE TORIES & THEIR BIG BUSINESS FRIENDS ARE ‘ALL IN IT TOGETHER’

Blacklist Support Group statement

Big Ben will now cost £61m to renovate and all that taxpayers’ money will be trousered by the kings of blacklisting Sir Robert McAlpine Limited. Despite a debate in parliament and questions being asked to the Speaker of the House of Commons, all the sympathy from MPs has come to nothing. Again. This company was at the very centre of a national scandal  that violated the human rights of over 3000 workers over a 40 year period. Sir Robert McAlpine Limited has also been a major donor to the Conservative Party for decades.

The Blacklist Support Group is sick to death of those in authority promising to take action but repeatedly delivering nada. The award of the contract to McAlpine is a two-fingered salute to all blacklisted workers and the ‘democratic values’ that Big Ben is supposed to signify.

The Big Ben announcement came at the same time that minister Margot James reiterated the government’s position that the Tory government would not ban any blacklisting company from public contracts in a letter to Glasgow MP, Chris Stephens.

Roy Bentham, BSG joint secretary and blacklisted carpenter from Liverpool, commented:

“This is a case of the nasty party rearing its ugly head once more. The fact that so many of those complicit still work within the industry tells us everything. Only a full public inquiry will get to the truth of this conspiracy that blighted the lives of so many honest hard working families.”

Blacklist Support Group: Construction giant Sir Robert McAlpine faces Big Ben backlash

The Speaker of the House of Commons and the Sir Robert McAlpine chief executive both joined the war of words about the £29m contract to refurbish Big Ben being awarded to the blacklist company. On Tuesday 5th September during a Westminster Hall debate on blacklisting MPs including Labour and SNP frontbenchers Jack Dromey and Chris Stephens joined Chuka Umunna in calling for the company that was at the very heart of The Consulting Association human rights scandal to be stripped of the Big Ben contract.

The former shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna went further on Thursday 7th by raising a ‘point of order’ on the floor of the House of Commons asking the Speaker, his “views and advice with regard to the matter of Big Ben” adding, “what message do you think it sends to the victims of this gross injustice for this House to award a contract to a firm that not only funded the Consulting Association, but provided its first chair and ​another chair?”

John Bercow replied that the question was “perfectly legitimately and reasonable” adding that although the company had been awarded the initial contract to provide scaffolding, the full contract had not yet been officially awarded to McAlpine. The Speaker of the House of Commons summed up by confirming “It is important. We are sensitive to it and we will be conscious in the days ahead of the reputational importance” and told MPs that he would make enquiries and make a further statement.

Stung by the ongoing criticism, the chief executive of Sir Robert McAlpine Limited, Paul Hamer wrote a letter to a number of newspapers claiming that “blacklisting “has no place now or in the future” at his firm and that the contractor was committed fully to “a zero-tolerance policy towards blacklisting, illegal or unfair recruitment practices”.  Adding that “I am pleased to confirm that Sir Robert McAlpine complies fully with all legislation to prevent blacklisting and is committed to fair and transparent recruitment.”

Roy Bentham, blacklisted carpenter from Liverpool and Blacklist Support Group, joint secretary responded to the McAlpine statement: “Paul Hamer might be the CEO but Cullum McAlpine owns the company and I sat behind Cullum McAlpine when he gave evidence to the select committee investigation. Upon advice from his lawyer who was sitting next to him throughout, the blacklister in chief smugly refused to answer questions put to him by MPs. The select committee report stated that they were “far from certain that all of our witnesses have told us ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’, despite many of them being under oath”. Blacklisted workers completely agree with that assessment by MPs

“Thirty years ago Sir Robert McAlpine Limited denied blacklisting people as part of the Economic League, 10 years ago they denied blacklisting people as part of The Consulting Association. And now they assure us that they’ve given up blacklisting completely. Given the company’s previous honesty on blacklisting, how could anybody possibly not believe them now?”

Unite assistant general secretary, Gail Cartmail said workers were “continuing to have their lives ruined simply for being a member of a union”.

MPs call for blacklist firm Sir Robert McAlpine to be stripped of £29m Big Ben contract

MPs lined up to call for a public inquiry into blacklisting and for Sir Robert McAlpine to be stripped of the contract to refurbish Big Ben during a 5 September parliamentary debate.

Blacklisting company Sir Robert McAlpine has already been paid £3.5m of public money to carry out the enabling works on Big Ben and are in line for another bumper £29m pay-out to complete the 4 year refurbishment project. The human rights of over 3,000 construction workers were breached when they were repeatedly denied work simply for their trade union membership. MPs questioned whether Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, as the driving force behind the blacklist, was the right contractor to be carrying out the works on Big Ben: the symbol of British democratic values.

Shadow minister for labour, Jack Dromey, said: “there has to be consequences for historic blacklisting” adding that “it is a scandal that the iconic Big Ben contract has been given to that company.!

SNP employment spokesperson Chris Stephens MP said: “Blacklisting firms have grown rich on public sector contracts” arguing that is was an ‘act of bad faith by the government that the one of the main perpetrators is being given access to public money.”

The call for Sir Robert McAlpine to be stripped of the Big Ben contract was repeated by numerous MPs including Chuka Umunna throughout the packed Westminster Hall debate.

During the debate, Chuka Umunna presented previously unreported evidence gathered from Freedom of Information Act requests that obtained emails between Crossrail and contractors on the publicly funded project that reveal continuing surveillance of union members. Umunna described the new evidence as “ugly underbelly of this sector that continues to go unaddressed” and repeated the call for a full public inquiry to finally get the truth behind this hidden human rights conspiracy.

Conservative minister Margot James flailed in her attempted defence of the government’s inaction, claiming that the “government take the issue of blacklisting very seriously” but point blankly refused to answer direct questions about the controversial Big Ben contract from Chuka Umunna, Chris Stephens and Jack Dromey.

The blacklisting conspiracy is linked to the undercover police scandal as senior officers from police units engaged in spying on so-called ‘domestic extremists’ attended and gave a PowerPoint presentation at one of the meetings of the illegal Consulting Association. Chaka Umunna said documents “strongly suggests that some of the evidence was supplied with the collusion of the police or the security services,”

Vic Williams, a blacklisted electrician from Leytonstone in east London, said: “Twelve months ago, the big construction companies gave us an apology for their involvement in blacklisting. They were only sorry for getting caught. McAlpine are coining in taxpayers money, they’re laughing at us. If MPs had any moral compass, they’d strip McAlpine of the Big Ben contract”.

Dave Smith, blacklisted construction worker and secretary of the Blacklist Support Group commented: “In all the media coverage of the Houses of parliament construction works, Big Ben was described as the symbol of British democratic values. So how can a company that breached the human rights of thousands of honest construction workers be a suitable contractor for one of the most prestigious construction projects in the world?

“The iconic bell of Big Ben might have fallen silent but blacklisted workers refuse to remain silent until those guilty of orchestrating this national scandal are forced to account for their actions at a public inquiry”.

Sir Robert McAlpine Limited is a major financial donor to the Conservative Party.

 

Blacklist campaigner highlights injustice

Only one person has been prosecuted for their criminal culpability in the blacklisting scandal, with not a single construction director behind the illegal operation having faced charges.

However, Ian Kerr, the former head of the Consulting Association – the industry financed organisation that spied on union and safety activists and provided the information to major site firms – has now been joined by award-winning human rights campaigner Dave Smith, as the focus of a prosecution.

Smith, a blacklisted worker and secretary of the Blacklist Support Group, was found guilty this week but discharged at the City of London magistrates’ court for disrupting traffic in Park Lane, London, in a blacklisting protest in March last year.

Commenting after his conviction, he said since the scandal erupted, “only two people have ever been convicted because of their involvement with blacklisting — Ian Kerr and me.” Smith was not fined but the offence will be held on his record for the next six months.

The Green Party this week came out in support of calls for a public inquiry into the practice of blacklisting trade unionists and campaigners. Outgoing Green leader Natalie Bennett said: “The time has come for a public inquiry into the shameful practice of blacklisting. It’s vital that those who were discriminated against, and the public, gain an understanding of how this information on suspected trade unionists was collected and how it was shared with prospective employers.”

Green Party member of the House of Lords Jenny Jones added that companies caught using blacklisting should not be left with the responsibility for ridding the industry of the practice.

“That’s why parliament must step up and kick-start a public inquiry into blacklisting,” the baroness said. “I’m also urging any worker who was discriminated in this way to speak to me about their experiences. I’ll do all that I can to take this forward in the Lords.”

Undercover police spied on rail union activists

Research by the Blacklist Support Group (BSG) has revealed that an undercover police officer masqueraded as a union activist to spy on members of the rail union RMT.

Photographic evidence unearthed by BSG secretary Dave Smith shows that in October 2004 Carlo Neri was present at a union protest following the sacking of the prominent union activist Steve Hedley at the Kings Cross terminal for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL).

The presence of the undercover officer from the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad was captured on camera by freelance photographer Andrew Wiard. The photographs show Neri standing behind an RMT banner with the slogan ‘Reinstate Steve Hedley’ while handing out leaflets to construction workers who had walked out in support of the victimised union activist.

Steve, now an elected senior assistant general secretary at RMT, commented: “I am appalled that a secret police spy thought that it was justified to turn up on a peaceful RMT picket line in order to gather information. I had earlier housed this person rent free as he claimed he was being made homeless and feel shocked that taxpayers’ money could be used like this to betray the trust of people engaged in completely legitimate industrial action.”

The photographs were rediscovered by Dave Smith while undertaking research for the updated version of the groundbreaking book ‘Blacklisted’.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT has been aware for some time that there was a destroyed ‘rail file’ at the heart of the blacklisting conspiracy that has never been properly investigated.”

He added: “Both of RMT’s assistant general secretaries, Steve Hedley and Mick Lynch, were blacklisted and the union is demanding to know how many others were being spied on by the police and the employers’ organisations. The fight for truth and justice goes on.”