21/05/2016 by socialistfight
On 9 May Unite the union reported that they had achieved a ‘blacklisting’ victory; a £10 million pay-out to 256 workers. Pay-outs would range between £25,000 and £200,000. The claim had been going through the courts for five years; 44 construction companies were involved including big firms like Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci PLC.
In 2009 a raid by the Information Commissioner on the offices of a firm called the Consulting Association unearthed a blacklist of 3,213 construction workers and environmental activists.
However the Liverpool Echo reported on 10 May that one of the central leaders of the Blacklist Support Group (BSG), Merseyside carpenter Roy Bentham, had indicated that he was refusing his £35,000 offer, describing it as ‘measly’ because he wanted more light shone on the actions of the construction companies involved in the blacklisting.
The Echo reported Roy as saying:
“Justice wouldn’t come just through compensation, this grand scale conspiracy needs a big light shining on it to bring full closure. I have suffered 14 years of blacklisting and what I want is an apology. I’ll be representing myself here on in. As good a result as this is for those seeking only compensation, my view has always been that it gets the construction companies off the hook and the scandal gets swept under the carpet. Justice as we know only too well up here on Merseyside only comes with accountability. I’m pinning my faith in the British legal system to deliver that.”
The BSG has always demanded a public inquiry into this. Obviously blacklisting is still going on and always will but it should be illegal and those who practice it should be fined and jailed. After all they have destroyed workers’ lives, workers whose only crime was to fight to defend the wages, terms and conditions and health and safety of their fellow workers, often in the teeth of union officials who were the bosses’ friends. Outrageously it was revealed in the course of this case that certain of these same union officials were complicit in putting their own members on the blacklist, some of whom may still hold union office in Unite and elsewhere. But the public inquiry might inhibit that type of widespread discrimination to a certain degree.
Activists should demand a workers’ inquiry irrespective on whether of not they get a proper public inquiry. If was conducted by a respected barrister at least it would be able to highlight the practice, indict the guilty union officials and set some standards to fight back against this appalling practice. ▲