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Blacklists redux… July 30, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, The Left.
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Reading this it is heartening to see that finally some degree of justice may be afforded those who were ‘blacklisted’ in the UK. A claim is being taken against ’industry giant Sir Robert McAlpine, Tory donor and builder of the Olympic Stadium’. As the Guardian notes:

The claim involves 86 of 3,400 workers in the files of the Consulting Association, a covert organisation paid by big names in the industry to collect damaging information on workers regarded as leftwing or troublesome. The files included information about trade union membership, relationships, friendships and political views, along with surveillance intelligence.

The claim argues that the activities of the CA were ‘unlawful’. And note the following:

The Information Commissioner’s Office said at Smith’s tribunal that it believed some of the information held by the covert organisation and accessible to companies that subscribed to the service “could only have been supplied by the police or the security services”.

It is this that underlines the point – albeit in the starkest possible way – that employments are far from neutral environments where capital and labour can operate in harmony, but instead are shaped and dictated by the former to their own ends. I’ve asked the question before but it is worth reiterating. Imagine for a moment a left wing or labour organisation that sought to do what the Information Commissioner’s Office has said the CA has done. What would the stance of the security services be on that. The idea that police or security services would supply information to such an entity is laughable.

And it’s not simply about workers rights, albeit those have a centrality to the issue that is hard to overlook. As the Guardian notes:

The Consulting Association, a clandestine organisation funded by major names in the construction industry, was run by Ian Kerr for more than 30 years. Its database was seized nearly three years ago, but the extraordinary nature of the information it held only fully emerged following a recent employment tribunal for one of the victims, Dave Smith, 46, an engineer who had a 36-page file against his name and was repeatedly victimised for highlighting safety hazards on sites, including the presence of asbestos.

That latter is a clear public interest issue. But then it is all a public interest issue.

Many thanks, by the way, to Jim Monaghan for alerting me to this follow up.

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1. Bert McCann - July 30, 2012

The Economic League was a pernicious scourge of workers since 1919. In the early 70’s and especially following the national builder’s strike in 1972 it acted with particular visciousness. One activist with whom I worked on the London end of the stoppage moved from the city in order to find work post-dispute. He went to a job in the North of Scotland and being aware of his blacklisting found work using the name and national insurance number of a relative who was not a building worker. He was identified within 48 hours and thrown off the job. Such was the extent of the EL’s malicious spider’s web.
Fast forward to the 80’s and stories were appearing in the Scottish press revealing that the country’s biggest brewer, Scottish and Newcastle amongst other companies were funding the EL.
In the early 90’s following the screening of a Granada TV documentary Glasgow Maryhill MP Maria Fyfe founded the Anti-Blacklisting League. I was a freelance journalist by this time and a regular contributor to the Scottish edition of the Observer. In that capacity I spoke to the EL’s director and it was clear that its information gathering was indiscriminate and was often supplied by anti-union malcontents and other tittle-tattlers. He also revealed that the organisation was exempt from the existing data protection regulations as all if its information was recorded on index cards. He also claimed in response to a question that his outfit was so impecunious that it couldn’t afford to computerise its records. I offered to include in the piece an appeal for volunteers to assist in this task. He declined of course.
It is good to see this particular chicken come home to roost especially if it extracts compensation from the likes of McAlpines a major exploiter of labour from all nationalities. The hardship imposed on workers over many decades cannot ever be adequately recompensed. However it is important that these cowardly employers and their helpmeets be exposed. The reference below may be useful to any interested people.

House of COMMONS,Oral EVIDENCETAKEN BEFORE the SCOTTISH AFFAIRS Committee

BLACKLISTING IN EMPLOYMENT

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Maria Fyfe

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