going into one of the main entrances to the Olympics site in Hackney
this morning (Friday 7th April).
going into one of the main entrances to the Olympics site in Hackney
this morning (Friday 7th). He was one of a number of protesters outside the prestige site campaigning against the blacklisting of union activists.
blowing the whistle on the use of an illegal blacklist of trade union
members by the mulit-national construction companies on the project.
THE FIGHT FOR JUSTICE [of some sort] ON THE BLACKLIST GOES ON – IN SPITE OF UNION OFFICIALS
NIGHTMARE IN MANCHESTER
Sorry for the delay in updating the record on the struggle against the blacklist in the construction industry. We’ve been waiting to see if UCATT would salvage even one victory over the Consulting Association Construction Database [CACD] blacklist via the tribunal system at Manchester. After all this surely shouldn’t have been too difficult with crystal clear evidence of blacklisting with names of UCATT members and names of employers blacklisting them on the CACD. Of course we realise tribunals are always weighted very heavily in favour of employers and workers lose them much more often than not. But even with this in mind it’s nothing short of astonishing and sickening that UCATT and their lawyers did not win a single case at a tribunal in Manchester. A lawyer confirmed this miserable record when a blacklisted UCATT member asked him recently if it was true.
In an ongoing nightmare those callous bastards named in the CACD registered victory after victory against UCATT members. Many were told they were clear out of time. The tribunal judge said they hadn’t submitted their papers for claims soon enough after they discovered they were on the CACD. Others were told that their claims related to events which happened before an industrial law came into force in early 1990s. But other laws were around!
ABSOLUTELY INCOMPETENT GENERAL SECRETARY, EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE AND LAWYERS. QUESTIONS DEMAND ANSWERS
If they were indeed out of time on both these counts this raises serious questions about the competence of UCATT General Secretary (GS) Alan Ritchie, who takes responsibility for all legal matters in union and has vast experience of tribunals. It also raises serious questions about the union lawyers and the Executive Council who rubber stamp all the GS’s decisions. They were already informed of this by many UCATT members [see open letter from Brian Higgins to GS Ritchie] and they must have known anyway, that industrial tribunals were never intended to deal with such serious socially and politically charged issue as the blacklist in construction. Civil and human rights laws should be used. We were all ignored. Add ignorance to incompetence and outcome was inevitable.
It also has to be asked – why did GS and lawyers allow all UCATT cases to be heard in only the one venue Manchester and no others nearer where many of claimants lived? And why did they allow the same anti-trade union anti-working class judge to preside over all cases? All of this massively favoured employers and this should have been challenged. It wasn’t! Blacklisted electricians in Unite and their lawyers managed to get tribunal venues nearer where claimants lived. They won a few cases. But it has to be stated that many Unite members lost their cases and felt badly let down by the union. Unite members were also of the opinion civil and human rights laws should have been used. They were also ignored.
BRIAN HIGGINS FUNDING WITHDRAWN AT 11th HOUR
In the earlier posted article, blacklisted UCATT member Brian Higgins outlined his own situation as one of building trade unionists named in CACD blacklist. So we report here on what happened to him as a prime example of just how badly UCATT members were let down and where they go from here.
A union lawyer told him that he had to attend a tribunal review hearing in Manchester on October 9th last year. He lives in Northampton and there are venues much nearer. A few days before that date he received a letter and then a phone call from union lawyer telling him the union (i.e. GS and National Treasurer Ritchie) was withdrawing funding for his case. They were not prepared to pay costs of the review hearing as this was very likely to go against the union. The lawyer also said that if Brian went ahead with the hearing he would have to meet the costs, which would be considerable [possibly thousands] and advised him to withdraw his claim as he would almost certainly lose it and costs awarded against him. Faced with this Brian felt he had no option but to withdraw his claim.
RIGHT TO GO TO EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS ALSO ‘WITHDRAWN’ BY UNION
As he had not failed in a UK court, which you need to do to take a case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), this meant he could not take case to this court. Talk about a double blow – also double dealing! He said he felt brutally betrayed by his union and lawyers. He felt that surely a union like UCATT, which boasted of being the only and biggest specialist union for building workers, would have had a contingency fund to deal with costs, particularly in the more severe cases of blacklisting. Then a member or their union could take a case to ECHR if it failed in a UK court.
One alternative is, of course, having the General Secretary and other national officials cut back on their often bloated expenses. This would enable the union to continue with such cases and see them through to the end and not leave members high and dry at the first real obstacle presented by what are generally employers’ courts. How did they expect a blacklisted worker, who has spent almost an industrial lifetime being denied the right to work and earn a wage by building employers, to be able to pay legal costs out of his own pocket. What the hell are workers in unions for if not for legal representation over industrial matters as well as other things they need collective help and solidarity for?
Some other members had their funding withdrawn, and others were dealt with just as cheaply and shabbily. This shows how Ritchie’s very public protests were total bullshit and only for the media. It also shows the complete lack of any sort of commitment by GS and EC to fight for blacklisted members. They were always much more interested in cutting costs and preventing names of UCATT Officials being exposed than fighting for blacklisted members.
SAVING MONEY NOT ONLY REASON. SAVING OFFICIALS’ NAMES BEING REVEALED MAIN ONE!
We are absolutely positive the main reason for Brian’s case being withdrawn is that if his case went to a hearing he would have asked for the many names, which were blacked out [i.e. censored] on his redacted file, to be made known to him and union. This would lead to the names of quite a few UCATT officials who supplied information on Brian to the CACD and building employers being revealed. There’s no way Ritchie or the EC or fulltime UCATT officials would want these names to come to light. Think of the embarrassment, the shame. So it’s much easier to withdraw funding to ensure no revelations.
UNITE OFFICIALS NAMED. BUT EC SAY FURTHER INVESTIGATION NEEDED. WHY?
The Unite Executive Council set up an Inquiry into the issue of union officials who could have supplied information on members to the CACD after pressure from rank and file members and blacklisted sparks. The names of some of these officials were revealed in some tribunals after court orders and given to claimants and union lawyers and the EC learned of these in inquiry. However rather than naming and shaming these renegade union officials the EC decided further investigation was needed. Why? Surely if they are clearly named then the severest union discipline should follow.
EASIER TO SMELL A RAT THAN IT IS TO CATCH A RAT
The English paper, Northern Voices, has reported the conflict of interest between a blacklisted electrician expecting help from union officials at a tribunal review in Manchester, whilst other officials were passing on information about union members to the CACD. It was also mentioned at the hearing that the names of nine Unite officials are contained in CACD files. And one of headings for this was saying ‘It is easier to smell a rat then it is to catch a rat’. Now they have been caught time to be named and shamed and expelled if still in union.
HOPE ‘UNITE INQUIRY’ NOT ANOTHER ‘UCATT INQUIRY’
We hope and trust that the Unite EC Inquiry into the names of officials informing on members to the CACD is not going to be another ‘UCATT Inquiry’. This was set up by the UCATT EC in the early 1990s, ostensibly to investigate clear evidence of ballot rigging and financial corruption in the union during the 1980s and to name and root out the guilty. In fact some in UCATT at the time said it is a bloody cover up and so it turned out to be. Far from being named and shamed and expelled not one of the guilty named in the inqury was disciplined and some are still in the union! Because of this the body politic of UCATT has been rotting and decaying ever since. No doubt the truly appalling performance of the union officials over blacklisted members reflects just how terminal a disease covering up for corruption can become. Let’s hope Unite don’t go down the UCATT road.
NEW NON-UNION LAWYERS MEANS NEW HOPE FOR SOME
Some of those UCATT members, so badly let down by the union, have been taken on by a new legal firm with the help of the Blacklist Support Group. This firm is not on the books of any union so there’s a real chance of some kind of justice. They are in the process of preparing a class/group action, mainly under Data Protection Act, against some employers named in CACD. This shouldn’t be too long in coming. We write “some form of justice”, since disgracefully it’s not a crime to blacklist a worker in the UK or anywhere else in Europe. This means building employers who did and still do this do not face imprisonment. Such a penalty would certainly act as a deterrent factor. So, blacklisted workers hope they’ll get some redress in damages against those who blacklist them. Stopping blacklist will be only way real justice served!
THE BLACKLIST CONTINUES – NO WONDER WITH UNIONS’ OFFICIAL RESPONSE!
The best opportunity ever presented to the construction and other trade unions in general [blacklisting happens in other industries too and where’s the TUC been in all this?], with the discovery and exposition of the CACD, has been squandered and thrown away. These unions are more interested in saving money and protecting the names of those officials grassing up union members to the employers. And let’s not forget they also want, at all costs, to preserve the sweetheart relationships they have with those same employers that provides fulltime union officials with cushy and privileged lifestyles.
Naturally building employers encouraged by the piss weak response of the two major unions in construction have continued quite arrogantly to operate The Blacklist against construction trade unionists - no where more blatantly or tellingly than on Olympic sites in London.
Frank Morris an electrician and building trade unionist found out from his electrical supervisor on the Olympic site, where he worked, that another electrician he worked with had been sacked because he was a trade unionist and known troublemaker, i.e. he stands up for trade union rights and conditions. Frank passed on this news to his sacked workmate’s union Unite and he said that his Olympic experience finished there!
BLOCKADE OF OLYMPIC SITE. RANK AND FILE FIGHTING BACK – NEW HOPE FOR ALL!
New laws, making blacklisting a criminal offence here and throughout Europe, would help in the fight against blacklisting. However, we have the Con-Dem butchers in power and the new the British law on blacklisting was so watered down by Labour, when in government, as to be almost useless. Some UCATT members approached MEP Glenis Willmott, who so far has done nothing. Therefore we can’t expect political help in near future. It is also worth remembering that construction employers break safety laws every day and regularly kill and maim building workers and get away with this! So relying on law only small part of solution.
It is an absolute fact that the only people with the real power to stop blacklisting are building workers on the sites at the point of production. Just as we say that to stop the killing we must stop production, the same also applies to stopping blacklisting in the industry. But to achieve this site workers have to get unionised in unions organised on site under their direct democratic control. This will mean fighting current fulltime union officials as well as employers where necessary. We must stop or seriously hinder production on sites where blacklisting happens.
It is tremendous news that some construction trade unionists have got together with the Blacklist Support Group to blockade Olympic site in London on April 7th. This is only the beginning, but if enough site workers take action then we can end the scourge of blacklisting once and for all.
Blacklisting is a sinister, anti-democratic and evil practice, forcing many workers into virtual house arrest.
FIGHT THE BLACKLIST AND SUPPORT ALL ACTION AGAINST IT
ON AND OUTSIDE SITES!