Last year it was revealed that major building employers had blacklisted workers who raised questions of safety and conditions. For decades some of these workers have been illegally denied work, their families have suffered great hardship. Many couldn’t get work again in the building industry…
Last week an investigation was held by the Scottish Affairs Select Committee which took evidence from blacklisted workers and those responsible for administering the blacklists. MPs investigating the secret list of blacklisted building workers heard from one of the bosses of construction firm Sir Robert McAlpine that the firm was involved in the operation, but they were not the only company, it turns out that Balfour Beatty, Crossrail, Skanska, Kier, Tarmac/Carillion, Mowlem and Trafalgar House (and others- 40 major construction companies in total, many of which are major Tory Party donors) were also involved in gathering and receiving information on workers from an organisation called The Consulting Association. It was shut down after its offices were raided in 2009 by the Office of the Information Commissioner, which served an enforcement notice under the terms of the Data Protection Act. This company had collected information on over 3000 workers during the past 20-odd years, (up until recently with the blacklist being used Crossrail, Olympics and the new Forth Road Bridge projects).
This was all done with the collusion of the police and security services- spying on, and actively denying qualified men work on building sites- or having them sacked if they were working. The men were targeted for their membership of trades unions, political activity, an interest in Health and Safety at work. A selection of entries from the secret files gives you an idea:-
‘ex-shop steward, definite problems, no go’,
‘poor time-keeper, will cause trouble, strong trade union’.
‘union activity, aggressive individual with short fuse’,
‘Gone from being a normal good electrician to being squarely in the electrical union camp’
‘troublemaker is politically motivated’
A Dundee hillwalker, writer and poet Syd Scroggie, who lost his sight and his legs while serving in the armed forces, found himself on a blacklist because he wrote to the press congratulating Dundee City Council for awarding the freedom of the city to Nelson Mandela….
The companies’ bosses involved have tried to justify themselves by saying they were merely looking out for ‘criminal and irresponsible’ behaviour, but the files, and the facts, speak for themselves- it is reckoned that the industry may have to pay millions in compensation, which up to now has not been forthcoming. It also turns out that the same company have been using the same methods on Environmental protesters, using spies, informers and other covert surveillance techniques…
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) at least 60,000 people are killed every year on construction sites. That’s around one death every 10 minutes. The industry accounts for almost one in 5 of all fatal workplace accidents. As many people are killed on construction sites throughout the world each year as die as a result of armed conflict. In the UK a worker killed every week on a building site. In effect the bosses are happy for this to happen, these men are killed because a lack the of health and safety measures on their sites, they do not want to see workers assert their rights, they don’t want to spend money on measures to protect workers, whether to fix an overflowing portaloo or to ensure men do not die from falls, crushing injuries or the multitude of other hazards on a building site (and in the UK, the lads have to provide themselves with their own safety-wear, helmets, gloves, goggles etc.).
By neglecting Health and Safety, the bosses are guilty of, at best, criminal negligence, at worst, an inhuman greed and indifference to the death, injury and suffering of those who make their money for them, but through actively seeking to prevent worker’s claiming their rights, they are basically guilty of murder. A clear case of blatant CLASS HATRED from the bosses. This of-course is all about conditions, and would normally be handled by trades unions, but since they would also negotiate workers pay levels the bosses, being the backward, evil Victorian bastards they are, will have none of it- no unions, no talk of safety, just ‘shut the fuck up, do your job, however unsafe, and piss off’…
It’s worth remembering the vast profits made by the construction industry, particularly in the boom years of the 80s in the light of this, but even before then the industry bosses had their knives out for organised workers, and it was only recently that the Government decided to keep documents about the 1972 building workers’ strike secret for another 10 years, saying they can’t be seen until 2021 “due to national security”. This is because in 1972 following the strike, 24 pickets were charged under an 1875 Conspiracy Act, (for supposedly using “intimidation, consisting of threatening words”). This was after two prosecution authorities and the police had interviewed 800 witnesses and couldn’t identify any wrong doers- it was bollocks basically. None the less, the Home Office demanded prosecutions. The real conspiracy was between the Tory government, the security services, building bosses and the judiciary.
It resulted in 6 Pickets being jailed from 6 months to 3 years. Des Warren, a UCATT member served 3yrs, died later from treatment meted out in jail. Ricky Tomlinson, (of TVs ‘Royle Family’ fame), was jailed for 2yrs. The defeat of the strike, the conspiracy and the prosecutions effectively broke the power of the unions in the building trade, and the illegal methods used to do so is why the files relating to the case remain censored for ‘national security reasons’.
Naturally, there are those of us who have known about the blacklists for years, and of organisations such as the Economic League, an organisation dedicated to opposing what they saw as subversion and action against free enterprise. The organisation was founded in 1919 by a group of industrialists under the name of ‘National Propaganda’. Its chief function was to promote the point of view of the capitalist bosses. They later worked with MI5 to blacklist workers who they suspected of association with certain left wing groups, ranging from the Communist Party of Great Britain to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and all trades union activity. In the early 80s many companies would check current and prospective workers with the League to ensure that they were evil soviet spies, ‘troublemakers’ or ‘leftist agitators’…
What is interesting about all this, besides the obvious illusion of ‘Freedom’ that we all live under (because if you challenge the rich and their profit motive effectively, then the ‘democratic’ forces of the state and business will monitor and harass you in the same way as the Gestapo, Stasi, Securitate or KGB did), is only a freedom, if is limited to having no real effect- But the correlation between the suppression of worker’s rights and the drive to destroy any manifestation of organised resistance to capitalism, coupled with the aim to create a ‘property-owning democracy’, to socially engineer working people into believing that they were greedy middle class cunts too, interested only in themselves and their families well-being, and to ‘fuck everyone else’, exists.
The creation of a ‘freedom’ built on the corpses of dead builders and created by the state, the rich and their secret police. To a degree this strategy has worked, though not for long, as the UK property bubble has yet to burst as violently as the ‘sub-prime’ market did in the USA- though repossessions are on the increase since the crash of 2008 when the capitalist class simply could not contain its voracious appetite for profits and its uncontrollable greed. The working class in the UK were well and truly suckered, but now the chickens are coming home to roost, just as they did with the revelations about the police cover-ups of the Hillsborough Disaster and the attack on the miners at Orgreave in the 80s, the truth is becoming known, the whistleblowers vindicated; The economic crisis, which is still in its early days, will sort the Toffs and Knobs from the Proles and Plebs soon enough…
THE RICH ARE OUR MISFORTUNE
Construction Safety Campaign
Families against Corporate Killers (FACK)