Covert police unit spied on union members

An undercover police unit that monitored political groups over a 40 year period gathered intelligence on members of at least five trade unions, a whistleblower has revealed.

Former undercover police officer Peter Francis said he spent four years spying on political activists.

A statement from Francis was delivered to a packed 12 March meeting in parliament that marked the launch of a new book about the blacklisting of thousands of workers by multinational construction firms. The book, ‘Blacklisted’, presents evidence of how police shared information about trade unionists with the blacklisters. Francis has revealed how he believes that he personally collected some of the intelligence that was stored on the blacklisting files held by industry-financed covert blacklister the Consulting Association.

Francis, in a statement read out by Labour MP John McDonnell, said the trade unionists spied on were members of UNISON, FBU, CWU, NUT and the students’ union NUS.

Francis promised to give evidence to the public inquiry into undercover policing announced earlier that day by home secretary Theresa May. The inquiry, which will be led by Lord Justice Pitchford, will have the power to compel witnesses to give evidence.

The union-backed Blacklist Support Group (BSG) demanded “that blacklisting is part of the inquiry,” adding “the full remit should only be decided after consultation with the victims of police spying. BSG also support the call for Peter Francis and other police whistleblowers to be exempted from the Official Secrets Act (OSA) when they give evidence in court or in any public inquiry. The OSA is being used by the police in order to cover up the scandal.” An online petition is backing up the call.

Unions CWU, GMB and UCATT all called for blacklisting of trade unionists to be included in the scope of the Pitchford inquiry.

The ‘Blacklisted’ book, authored by BSG founder member Dave Smith and investigative journalist Phil Chamberlain, has attracted widespread press coverage, including national papers the Guardian and the Mirror, and is rapidly becoming a labour movement and civil rights ‘must read’.

Change.org petition calling on Theresa May to ensure the OSA is not used against inquiry whistleblowers.

Blacklisted: the secret war between big business and trade union activists, New Internationalist, March 2015. ISBN 978-1-78026-257-4. eBook ISBN: 978-1-78026-258-1. £9.99. Book video trailer.

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3 Comments

  1. Mary Pimm & Nik Wood
    Posted 19 March, 2015 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    See yesterday’s coverage of the Home Secretary’s evidence to the Select Committee about the historic sexual abuse inquiry. A campaigning opportunity. We wrote this letter to the editors.

    Theresa May has urged Judge Lowell Goddard to protect potential police and security witnesses to her inquiry into historic child sexual abuse from prosecution under the Official Secrets Act. Can she now do the same with Lord Justice Pitchford and his inquiry into under cover policing? The issue of police and security service staff who have seen the error of their ways is identical.

  2. Michael Houlihan
    Posted 19 March, 2015 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    We all knew that blacklisting & Police spying was going on back on the 1960’s but couldn’t prove it, my phone was tapped 24/7 during the Barbican lockout and after. Its very brave of ex P.C Francis to put his head above the parapet and reveal what was actually going on and is still going on. There is no lengths to which the establishment will go, to silence anyone who threatens to expose their modus operandi, look what happened to the head of the ‘Consulting Association’, make sure Peter Francis doesn’t have a “Heart attack” before he’s called on to give evidence!!! The BSG are to be commended on their tenacity in pursuing this matter and achieving all they have done to date, their is still a long struggle ahead as those they have locked horns with will not give up easily, the term ‘Perfidious Albion’ springs to mind.

  3. Graham Riches
    Posted 13 April, 2015 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    After over forty years in the financial services industry, having read Blacklisted I can now understand why even my sons, aged 9 & 12 years of age, have been recommended by my ex-wife (herself the recipient of RCN negotiated £15,000 payment on being “bullied out” of her RGN job in Dawlish) has recommended my sons seek work abroad.
    After at least eight “criminal damage with intent attacks” on my present family home/cars since 2002 in Mid-Wales, my problems seem small compared to what many of those braver people featured in the book have suffered, but I wonder whether I would achieve anything by asking my 1978-91 “big banking group” ex-employer(s) about “blacklisting” at their AGM in Edinburgh on 14.5.15. My “best guess” is probably I would achieve nothing, as they have stated that the Statute of Limitations applies, but the attackers of my present family do not seem to play by that “rule”!

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