It was originally assumed that blacklisting was a secret tool used by construction companies – Balfour Beatty, Costain, McAlpine, Skanska, Carillion, Kier and over 30 others – to keep out people they didn’t want. To achieve this the euphemistically named Consulting Association over 16 years (1993-2009) complied a database on thousands of construction workers who were denied a job if it was reported that they were trade union activists or had expressed concern about health and safety standards or had simply been the victims of derogatory gossip, thus destroying their livelihood for sometimes 30 or more years for reasons kept secret for the worker himself. This scandal may finally be exposed in the High Court this year, though nearly half of the 3,213 persons with Consulting Association files on them have still not yet been traced. But the latest evidence now emerging indicates two other sinister trends: the extensive involvement of the police and security services and the inclusion on the blacklists of several persons in public life who have had no connection whatever with the construction industry.
John Stewart, chair of the pressure group Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft noise, found himself on the blacklist and when he flew to the US in 2011 for a speaking tour, he was escorted off the plane by armed guards and sent back to the UK. Helen Steel, one of the defendants in the ‘McLibel’ trial who is suing the police after she had a long-term relationship with police spy John Dines, was also put on the blacklist. Dave Morris, her McLibel co-defendant, was also found on the database, and he believes that if police intelligence was routinely given to McDonalds in the 1990s, as McDonald’s head of security admitted in the witness box, then police were giving it to construction companies and maybe other employers too.
Frank Smith, a bricklayer and political activist calling for better wages and conditions, has a blacklist entry describing him as a ‘leading light’ in a group protecting anti-fascist activists from attacks, which no manager of a building site would be likely to know and such information on anti-racist activities could only have originated from under-cover police. Frank Smith’s girlfriend, Lisa Teuscher, is also on the blacklist, though she never worked in construction. Scottish politicians Tommy Sheridan and Colin Fox also had blacklisting files despite not working in construction. Ian Kerr, director of the Consulting Association, told a Commons Select Committee that he held about 200 files on environmental activists. And the charges brought against blacklisted workers verge on paranoia: Steve Acheson, an electrician who started a picket outside the Fiddlers Ferry power station in Cheshire after he was dismissed, had an injunction brought against him by the owners, Scottish and Southern Energy, under the Prevention of Terrorism Act on the grounds that he was a threat to national security!
This whole scandal reveals yet another arm of the surveillance State as well as a systematic and illegal campaign to blacken trade union activists as an enemy of the State. It still requires a new law outlawing all such activities as a criminal offence.