Blacklist hero Dave Smith writes exclusively for UnionNews
Lawyers representing eight construction multinationals have completely rewritten the legal defence in the group litigation at the High Court, effectively running up the white flag. This is not some road to Damascus conversion but rather a cynical attempt to avoid the spectacle of a ten-week week High Court conspiracy trial set to start in May 2016.
If there was any real justice in the world, the company directors who orchestrated this national scandal should be forced to give evidence under oath and then face their punishment. Unfortunately the British legal system doesn’t work like that and big business will try to buy its way out of any responsibility for its crimes.
But if the blacklisting companies think a few thousand pounds will stop public scrutiny, they are very wrong. We did not arrive at this point simply due to a legal challenge but because of six years of political, industrial and direct action campaigning by the Blacklist Support Group (BSG), UNITE, GMB and UCATT. The blacklisting issue has rekindled the best traditions of solidarity across our movement and we intend to continue our fight for justice. Full disclosure of the evidence that has been deliberately concealed and a public inquiry to expose the full extent of this national human rights scandal is essential.
The TUC demand throughout the campaign was for the blacklisting companies to Own Up, Clean Up, Pay Up. Many councils and even the Welsh Assembly and Scottish government have supported the TUC demand by passing resolutions banning proven blacklisters from public contracts. The building firms might have owned up but they certainly haven’t cleaned up or paid up. Not one of the senior managers who operated the blacklist has been disciplined yet alone dismissed: many have been promoted! And the firms still intend to fight tooth and nail to avoid paying proper levels of compensation to workers whose lives they have ruined.
Now is the time for public authorities to carry out an immediate review of any public procurement currently in the tendering stage to ensure that no public contracts are awarded to the admitted blacklisters. Blacklisting is clearly a breach of any kind of ethical procurement and allowing these companies to provide public services can only bring any local council into disrepute. Elected politicians across the UK should follow the principled stand taken by Islington council and chuck the blacklisters out.
And if the firms thought their admissions of guilt in the Royal Courts of Justice would make the problem go away, the very same building is now acting as the venue for the public inquiry into undercover policing being headed by Lord Justice Pitchford.
Blacklisted workers represented by the BSG have been granted core participant status. So regardless of the manoeuvres by the big contractors, the British state will now investigate the role of the police in the building industry blacklist scandal. UCATT, FBU & NUM have also been granted core participant status to look into covert state infiltration of trade unions across a number of sectors.
Blacklisted workers won’t be rushing out to buy bright yellow sports cars just yet. But we will be raising a pint to savour what we now know will be an imminent and historic victory.
- Dave Smith is the secretary of the Blacklist Support Group and the author of the book, Blacklisted, which you can buy here. You can read the UnionNews review of Blacklisted here.
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