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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