It has been said by rank and file trade unionists for many years that a blacklist has been used by employers in the construction industry. Now after intense lobbying by the rank and file forcing their unions to raise the issue in Parliament, it has been proved that there is a blacklist of 3,200 construction workers.
Over 40 well known companies such as Balfour Kilpatrick, Crown House, AMEC, Costain and Wimpey were using the services of Ian Kerr Associates. This toerag of an individual provided any company who contacted him with names of so called trouble makers and ex shop stewards. Steve Acheson, an electrician from Manchester, has only worked for 36 weeks in the last 9 years due to being on the blacklist. Many other workers have also been affected. The blacklist can ruin people’s lives, affecting all family members, forcing them into extreme poverty and serious debt. Many have lost their homes and marriages have broken up.
The unions must be applauded for lobbying MPs and Parliament, but the real heroes are the rank and file and the working class.
These people suffered greatly due to the capitalist bosses’ greed and their
exploitation of workers. The working class always suffers in the class struggle against the bosses who detest us, especially when we organise into unions and take them on. We must never give up the fight. They offer us crumbs, we demand bread and roses.
The unions must now pursue this further and ensure that Ian Kerr is prosecuted for his crimes.
Workers who have been unemployed for long periods should be compensated.
The rank and file must keep up the pressure on their unions and take action wherever the blacklist is being used. It will not go away. Fight for your class. It’s a major battle ahead which can be won providing all workers are united in defeating the bosses to bring an end to exploitation of workers once and for all, and a fair and equal workplace in construction as well as other industries.
By Steve Kelly, Unite London Construction branch member
- The Information Commissioner has finally blown the whistle on a dirty practice that has ruined livelihoods and wrecked workers’ lives. The blacklist broke data protection laws. For a fee firms could buy comments such as “lazy and a troublemaker” and “do not touch” against the name of potential employees. The workers had no redress. They weren’t even told they were blacklisted, let alone why, though workers like Steve Acheson worked it out for themselves. And there was no way they could challenge these slurs against their name.
- Ian Kerr has been told to pack his firm in. Will he just pocket his fees and move on? Kerr has broken the law. He should be punished.
- Kerr worked for years for a sinister outfit called the Economic League that was finally disbanded in 1993 after decades of criticism. It seems he just took over their files and kept the blacklist going.
- Steve Acheson says firms using the blacklist should be banned from taking up public sector contracts. He is right.
- New Labour has played a shameful role. The Employment Relations Act they introduced in 1999 made blacklisting illegal. All they had to do was introduce regulations to make it enforceable. They refused to do so because, they claimed, there was “no hard evidence that blacklisting was occurring.” Really they caved in to pressure from the very employers who have been using Kerr’s illegal blacklist. At the stroke of a pen they could have protected workers like Steve Acheson from almost a decade of victimization and hardship.
- Blacklisting must stop.