Unite welcomes dismissal of ‘fictional’ terror case


The union Unite has welcomed the High Court’s decision to reject an injunction request by power giant Scottish and Southern Electricity (SSE), aiming to stop a peaceful protest against blacklisting.

The union provided legal support for electrician Steve Acheson, who has been protesting outside SSE’s Fiddlers Ferry power station against his dismissal by site contractors and against blacklisting for over nine months.

The judge said that the application, which aimed to use provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act to justify the injunction, was “fanciful” and “almost paranoid” and noted that the Unite member’s occupation meant that he was alive to the dangers posed by power stations.

Unite assistant general secretary, Les Bayliss, said: “Scottish and Southern tried to cook up a fictional story to try to prevent a Unite member from holding a peaceful protest against blacklisting in construction outside Fiddlers Ferry power station.

“This was a blatant attack on the rights we hold dear in a democratic society and we are pleased that the judge saw right through Scottish and Southern’s bogus arguments.”

The judge dismissed the application and ordered SSE to pay Mr Acheson’s costs.

Judge rejects SSE’s ‘paranoid’ terror claims

A power company has failed in a Royal Courts of Justice bid to use the Prevention of Terrorism Act against a blacklisted worker in a bid to stop anti-blacklisting protests outside a power station construction site. An injunction was sought this week by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) to end the twice-weekly action in support of sacked Unite member Steve Acheson outside the Fiddlers Ferry power station, Warrington.

Rejecting the firm’s call for an injunction, Justice Mann described the SSE legal case as “lacking any evidence at all” and as “fanciful bordering on paranoid”. Lawyers for SSE had claimed the protesters were committing trespass and Steve Acheson’s actions could affect the nation’s power supply.

The dispute at the power station started in December 2008, when the electrician was dismissed from the project by subcontractor BMSL. Steve complained that he was being deliberately victimised because he was an active trade union member and began to picket the site to regain his job.

After the Unite-backed legal hearing on 21 October at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, Steve commented: “If this injunction had gone through it would have had a devastating impact upon trade unions ability to organise. I have been boosted by the support I have received from so many people. This is a defeat for corporate bullies.”

He added: “Tomorrow I will be back at Fiddlers Ferry, fighting the blacklist and fighting to get my job back”. Full costs were awarded against SSE. Acheson was one of more than 3,000 workers whose name appeared on the illegal blacklist that being used by over 40 major construction firms and that was uncovered by the Information Commissioner’s Office earlier this year.

A Blacklist Support Group spokesperson commented: “SSE were totally humiliated, their case was ridiculous. This was big business trying to use their financial muscle to trample over our human rights.

“The real terrorists are the big contractors who are destroying peoples lives by organising a blacklsting conspiracy to deny work to decent hard working trade union members. It should be the major construction firms in the dock.”

Push to strengthen blacklist law

Construction union UCATT has enlisted the help of a group of Labour MPs in a bid to pressure the government to strengthen the draft regulations designed to outlaw blacklisting. The MPs agreed to take this action at the 20 October parliamentary launch of ‘Ruined Lives’, a UCATT-commissioned academic report which argues the proposed anti-blacklisting regulations are inadequate.

Report author Professor Keith said the draft regulations were “hopeless and inadequate”.

UCATT general secretary Alan Ritchie told the launch how union health and safety reps were especially targeted by companies. He said it was common for them to be laid off soon after taking on the safety rep role, with alternative work subsequently being hard to obtain. He said: “The regulations don’t just have to be watertight, they have to be airtight so the employers can’t wriggle out of them.”

UCATT says the government is due to publish the anti-blacklisting regulations before Christmas – trade paper Contract Journal reported on 14 October “the new regulations are due to be published as a Statutory Instrument within the next few days”.

The Labour MPs backing the campaign to strengthen the law have agreed to ask parliamentary questions, lobby the Department for Business (BIS) and use parliamentary scrutiny methods in order to ensure that the regulations are strengthened. An early day motion tabled by Mick Clapham MP seeks MPs backing for the UCATT campaign.

Get your MP to sign up to the blacklisting EDM!

Mick Clapham MP had laid an Early Day Motion on blacklisting, below. Make sure your MP signs up!

Early Day Motion, House of Commons, 19.10.2009

 Blacklisting ruins lives, EDM 2093

Clapham, Michael
That this House was most concerned to learn that blacklisting of trade unionists was an activity that still continued and welcomes the publication of the report, Ruined Lives prepared by Professor Keith Ewing for the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians and which will be launched on 20 October 2009; and argues that the scope of the new regulations should be wider than outlawing blacklisting for trade union activities and that injustice should be a compensatable offence.

Blacklist Support Group update

From the Blacklist Support Group

Blacklist Support Group is a network of building workers across various unions who have been affected by the Consulting Association blacklisting scandal. We are the actual individuals whose lives have been ruined by the vindictive actions of major UK construction firms who over decades systematically organised a covert blacklist to deny trade unionists work.

We represent the vast majority of workers (virtually all of them) who are currently taking Employment Tribunal claims against the major contractors. We intend to campaign for justice for blacklisted workers by demanding the strongest possible legislation, retrospective compensation and by fully exploring every legal and campaigning avenue to expose the corrupt activities of the major building contractors.  

Any building workers should call the Information Commissioner’s Office 01625-545745 to check whether they are on the Consulting Association Blacklist

Campaign Dates for your diary
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Terror law used against blacklisted electrician

A power company is using anti-terror legislation against a blacklisted worker in a bid to stop anti-blacklisting protests outside a power station construction site.

An injunction has been sought by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) to end the twice-weekly action by Unite member Steve Acheson outside the Fiddlers Ferry power station, Warrington, since his dismissal by contractors in December 2008.

A report from Warrington Trades Council, posted on Labournet, notes: “He has now been served with notice of an injunction against his protest.” 

It adds: “In law this will only be granted if there is an imminent threat of harm or loss. To this end the injunction makes various fantastical claims that Steve and his supporters pose a danger to the National Grid!”

The hearing is scheduled for Royal Courts of Justice, London, on Wednesday 21 October at 10.30am. The firm claims protesters are committing trespass and Steve Acheson’s actions could affect the nation’s power supply.

In using this terror law ruse against the sacked electrician, the firms application for an injunction does not mention the action is in protest at the alleged blacklisting of the union rep. Steve Acheson is one of the workers involved in a blacklisting class action case. Union advisers also believe it means the union rep has few rights to challenge the allegations made by the firm.
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Labour MP calls for inquiry into construction industry

From the Blacklist Support Group

The OFT has fined 103 construction companies for rigging bids for contracts. This follows the scandal of construction companies abusing their workforce through blacklisting practices, and increasing concerns about the practices of gangmasters in the industry and health and safety standards.

John McDonnell MP said: “OFT revelations about the abuse of public funds by the construction industry comes hot on the heels of the blacklisting scandal, and abuses by construction gangmasters. This has exposed the industry as a law unto itself in the way in which it abuses the system to maximise its profits.

“There now needs to be a full public inquiry into the construction industry’s practices: including cover pricing, blacklisting, and health and safety.”

John McDonnell MP has tabled EDM 1357 ‘Blacklisting in the Construction Industry’ and EDM 1366 ‘Gangmaster Licensing Authority’

Group calls for blacklisting inquiry

There should be a public inquiry into corrupt practices in the UK construction industry, workplace rights campaigners have said.

A packed 6 October meeting at the House of  Commons heard the inquiry demand endorsed unanimously by MPs, leading human rights academics, barristers and blacklisted building workers.

The meeting was called by the Blacklist Support Group to discuss the recently exposed covert illegal blacklisting of trade unionists by major UK building firms. Ian Kerr of the Consulting Association (and formerly the Economic League) was fined  £5,000 for his role in the blacklisting of trade unionists. So far, however, the 44 major construction firms  have incurred no penalty or sanction. 

Addressing the meeting, John McDonnell MP told the blacklisted workers: “This is one of the worst ever cases of organised abuses of human rights in the UK. I fully support your campaign for justice and I will be raising the issue of a public enquiry in parliament. There is already considerable support in the house.”
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Scourge of trade unionist blacklisting

The Morning Star has featured members of the Blacklist Support Group in an article highly critical of the government’s proposed legislation.

Keith Ewing, professor of public law at King’s College London, writes “this belated gesture – to implement a power first contained in the Employment Relations Act 1999 – does not go nearly far enough. Blacklisted workers might also want to know why their files were shown to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.”

He adds: “Any regulations introduced by the government must provide a retroactive compensation scheme for the people on the Consulting Association’s blacklist, funded by a special levy imposed on companies known to have used the lists.

“The law must clearly lay down that keeping and using blacklists is a criminal offence. Anyone appearing on a blacklist should be entitled to a minimum award of compensation without the need to establish loss but with compensation being increased where loss is established.”

The article concludes: “There should be no argument – being blacklisted is a violation of internationally protected human rights, running a blacklist should be an offence and being blacklisted should be enough to establish a right to compensation.”

Blacklist Support Group meeting details, 6 October

Blacklist Support Group meeting details, 6 October
6pm Tues 6th October 2009
Venue: No 1. Parliament Square (next to Portcullis House / adjacent to Westminster tube) – it will be signposted.
As far as possible we hope to make this a campaign update & organising meeting rather than a standard public meeting with lots of top table speeches and only a short time for Q&A at the very end.
Whilst journalists & supporters will be welcome to attend the meeting, it would be polite to allow most questions & discussion from the workers affected by the blacklisting.

Proposed Agenda
1. Apologies
2. Background to the Consulting Association blacklisting
David Clancy (Information Commissioners Office)
Steve & Colin (Manchester electricians)
3. ET claims updates / Victimisation & Human Rights issues
Professor Keith Ewing – author of Ruined Lives: Institute of Employment Rights report into blacklisting
Mick & Phil (both blacklisted workers have already completed Pre-Hearing Reviews)
4. Proposed Regulations – parliamentary progress
John McDonnell MP
5. Data Protection Claims
Sean Curran (Guney Clark Ryan solicitors)
6. Future press / future activities
7. Any other business

Blacklist Support Group