The police or security services supplied information to a blacklist funded by the country’s major construction firms that has kept thousands of people out of work over the past three decades, the Observer has reported.
It says the revelation came from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which believes records that could only have come from the police or MI5 were included in a vast database of files held on 3,200 victims, most targeted for their trade union and particularly safety activities.
The files were collected by the Consulting Association, a clandestine organisation funded by major names in the construction industry. Evidence of police and security service complicity came at an employment tribunal for one of the victims, Dave Smith (above), a 46-year-old former UCATT safety rep who had a 36-page file against his name and was victimised repeatedly for highlighting safety hazards on sites, including poor welfare facilities and the presence of asbestos.
David Clancy, investigations manager at the ICO and a former police officer, told the central London tribunal adjudicating on Smith’s claims against construction giant Carillion that “there is information on the Consulting Association files that I believe could only be supplied by the police or the security services.”
He told the Observer: “The information was so specific and it contained in effect operational information that wouldn’t have formed anything other than a police record.” The paper reports that the scandal will be thrown open to further public exposure in the coming months as a class action by 100 victims against at least 39 companies is set to be pursued in the high court by Hugh Tomlinson QC.
John McDonnell MP, who first raised the issue of blacklisting a decade ago, wrote to the Home Secretary Theresa May this week, calling on her to make a House of Commons statement on the blacklisting issue. The letter also calls for a public enquiry.
The blacklisting revelations have attracted coverage worldwide. Michelle Chen, writing in US publication In These Times, noted: “For years, they wondered why they kept getting turned down for jobs, even when they seemed well qualified. The workers might have all just chalked it up to bad luck if they hadn’t eventually discovered they were at the centre of an extraordinary conspiracy… As fresh details have recently surfaced in the British media, the scandal has taken on shades of a British crime thriller, a Sunday tabloid and a treatise on the English working class.”
So far, though, the criminals that bankrolled the blacklist and directed the activities of The Consulting Association – a list that includes many of the UK’s major multinational construction firms – have remained above the law.