The blacklist in construction is back
with a vengeance. It is a well known fact that the blacklist has been used
against construction workers for many years especially since the Shrewsbury
strike in 1972.
was always difficult to prove, but in 2006 a case involving three Manchester
electricians who were sacked from a job at the Royal Infirmary Hospital in
Manchester (having been elected by the workers on that site as their shop
stewards and safety rep), was heard at industrial tribunal brought by the T&GWU,
now Unite, for unfair dismissal. Evidence was bought to the tribunal by an ex-employee
of a well known electrical contractor called Haden. Alan Wainwright swore on
oath that indeed a blacklist was most definitely in operation and there was a
list of 500 electricians who had worked on the Jubilee Line extension, Pizers
(in Kent), and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden .
These sites were all organised by electricians
in the past with elected shop stewards and safety reps .Any action
taken on those sites would have been unofficial action which annoys firms as
well as union bureaucrats. In construction that’s always been the case, and
will continue to be so, due to the nature of the industry. Strike while
the IRON IS HOT so to speak. The three electricians in Manchester eventually
won the tribunal for unfair dismissal, sacked for organising in a trade
Two of the workers recently got work after
bravely demonstrating outside the site every day since May 2006. A third worker,
Steve Acheson, was still struggling to find work up to 3 weeks ago. Steve was
offered a job at the Fiddlers Ferry power station in Warrington. Three weeks
ago he was told he could start along with 20 others. Two hours later Steve was
told by the company on site they only needed 19 workers .Seems like they
realised who Steve was (steward from MRI).
The workers on site immediately said they
would walk off the job unless Steve was employed. It was obvious to them the
blacklist was being used against Steve. Unite full time officers were called in
for talks with the company to avert a walkout by the men. After 4 weeks Steve
had still not be offered a job on the site. On the 14th August the workers
on site told the union that if Steve was not on the job by Monday 18th August
they would not go into work and picket lines would be set up for Monday
other trades assured the electricians of their full support. Steve Acheson was
given a job on the site within a couple of hours. This shows how, if workers
unite and stick together and defend their fellow workers, the blacklist can be
defeated. This kind of action may be necessary in the future – most likely on
the Olympic project in Stratford, which is rumoured to need 9,000 workers when
it is in full swing.
The main lesson here is all construction
workers should join a union and take unofficial where necessary, especially
when told not to by trade union officials. They would say we are breaking the law.
Rank and file trade unionists have been doing that since 1834!
Unity is strength!
workers united can never be defeated!