Environmental activists who were on a construction industry blacklist have spoken out in support of a High Court case against the companies involved. On 14 May 2015, the blacklisting group litigation – equivalent to a US style class-action – returns to the High Court with 500 blacklisted workers taking on over 40 of the UK’s largest construction companies.
The environmental activists, who say their own quest for answers and for justice has been stymied by the ‘incompetence’ of the Information Commissioner’s Office, are backing the Blacklist Support Group’s campaign for justice, including legal action and protests. The latest action comes this week, as the court action resumes at the Royal Courts of Justice.
Blacklist Support Group Protest
9:30am Thursday 14 May
Royal Courts of Justice
The illegal system run by the Consulting Association was used by most of the big names in construction until it was exposed in 2009. More than 3,200 people had files detailing their instances of political activity, raising of health and safety concerns or trade union involvement. Information in the files was provided by the companies themselves as well as police. Whilst most were actual construction workers, with some having dossiers running to nearly 50 pages of personal details, over 200 environmental activists – known as the ‘greenlist’ – also had files.
When the Information Commissioner’s Office raided the Consulting Association in 2009 they only seized an index list of greenlist files, the files themselves were destroyed. This meant there is no evidence of what was in the files or which ones had been used to deny work to any individual, and so greenlisters’ lawyers advised against continuing the legal case.
Several of the companies who used the list set up a compensation scheme, in a bid to head off potentially far more expensive court settlements. It gives £4,000 to anyone who was on the list, more if they can show their files were used. It is capped at £100,000. With some workers denied a living for a decade or more, the maximum payout doesn’t even cover loss of earnings for many, let alone any interest of damages. Many of them, co-ordinated by the Blacklist Support Group, are boycotting the derisory compensation offer and are fighting on in the courts.
But for the greenlisters, the legal fight seems over. With no obvious alternative cause of redress, some have accepted the scheme’s payouts and made donations to the Blacklist Support Group.
A statement from greenlist activists provided to the Blacklist Support Group noted: “Thanks to the incompetence of the Information Commissioner’s Office, only a fraction of the files were seized. Greenlisters only have a list of whose files existed. Had ours not been among those lost, we would have the chance to fight our legal case properly and to seek more answers. It was a breach of our right to privacy, to freedom of association, and our right to a unionised, safe workplace. But this paltry sum is the best we can hope for.
“Most of us were on the list because our details had been passed from brushes with the law in environmental protests. It seems likely that police were involved in supplying this information, and we note that the Independent Police Complaints Commission admit blacklist files contained information that can only have come – illegally – from police or security services. They worked not to uphold the law but in order to uphold corporate profit.
“Even if greenlisters did not suffer financial hardship from being on the list, that was not through want of trying on the part of the police and blacklisters. More than that the 3,000 construction workers suffered huge hardship over decades. This was a colossal conspiracy to invade people’s personal lives, the working class equivalent of phone hacking. We stand in solidarity with the blacklisted construction workers. We are proud to donate funds from the wrongdoers to the fightback against them. We hope it can help their court case get the truth and justice that has been denied to us.”
Dave Smith, the secretary of the Blacklist Support Group, commented: “Corporate and state surveillance on peaceful protesters is a national scandal. The UK secret political police units considered trade unions to be the ‘enemy within’ and targeted UK citizens participating in democratic campaigns; routinely passing intelligence onto big business. The Blacklist Support Group is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with social justice activists and pledge our continued support for those campaigning for a full public inquiry into the anti-democratic conspiracy carried out by multinational corporations and the security services.”
- blacklisted environmental activist Ellenor Hutson is available for interview. Contact BSG for further details.