Fight union busting

Submitted by AWL on 12 May, 2015 - 5:58 Author: Dave Smith, founding member of the Blacklist Support Group

Blacklisting is primarily an industrial relations issue, and it needs to be fought in the workplace.

In the past, construction workers have walked off site just to get blacklisted workers onto the jobs in the first place. This isn't in the dim distant past; only last year, it happened on major Blue Book sites [sites covered by the terms of the “National Agreement for the Engineering Construction Industry”, known as the “Blue Book”].

When Frank Morris was dismissed due to blacklisting on Crossrail in 2012, Unite threw its weight behind the rank-and-file campaign, and, after a bitter year-long industrial dispute, got him reinstated.

But one victory has not changed the industry, and Crossrail remains a challenge to unions trying to build organisation, with activists being sacked only in the past few weeks.

There have been historic victories in the building industry over the past two-three years, involving thousands of workers.

Hopefully when Crossrail really starts mass recruitment in the next 12-18 months, many of the new younger activists who cut their teeth on BESNA [the 2011 campaign against an attempt by the major construction contractors to withdraw from collective agreements and impose worse terms and conditions] will manage to get a job and build genuine shop-floor organisation. We did it in the 1990s on the Jubilee Line, can can do it again in 2015-16.

The High Court group litigation involves over 500 blacklisted workers in a class action-style case against over 40 of the biggest building firms in the country. Effectively the whole industry is on trial for blacklisting. With the prospect of directors of multinational companies and ex-undercover police officers giving evidence, it will be a full-on media circus.

The full trial is expected to start in summer 2016. The wheels of the justice system turn at a glacial pace.

The blacklisting campaign has achieved what it has so far because of the solidarity of our movement. Across the political spectrum, we have been supported in parliament, council chambers and at union conferences.

Big business, the police and security services have violated our human rights in an illegal conspiracy against trade unions. Blacklisting isn't about 3,000 building workers, it is about whether trade unions are free to operate in a supposedly democratic society.

It stands alongside Shrewsbury and the miners' strike as a stark reminder that, in the fight between labour and capital, the state is not neutral.

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