In February 2009 a raid by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) exposed the existence of a blacklist containing the personal details of 3,213 people, largely construction workers. This blacklist had operated as the ‘Consulting Association’ from 1993 and had been used by over 40 UK construction companies to deny work to anyone they considered a “troublemaker”.
In many cases workers had been systematically denied work for as long as decades, often simply because they had been involved in a trade union or raised health & safety concerns. Ian Kerr, the Director of the Consulting Association regularly spied on left-wing organisations and reported the content of their literature and meetings back to his subscribing companies. Also targeted were ‘green’ activists and animal campaigners.
The Consulting Association was not an isolated instance of blacklisting in the UK construction industry. Prior to 1993 a similarly organised and well-funded blacklist had been run by the so-called “Economic League”; founded in 1919 under the name “National Propaganda” by a group of industrialists and an MP who had been the Director of the Admiralty’s Naval Intelligence Division to combat the growing militancy in the working class in the wake of the First World War. Following the exposure of its activities in the 1980s, the Economic League was disbanded in 1993. Ian Kerr, an employee of the League’s construction arm, the ‘Services Group’, founded the Consulting Association using material he had ‘salvaged’ from his former employer. He did this with the financial backing of a number of major construction companies.
There is no compelling reason to believe that the practice of blacklisting has now ceased. The companies which helped to found the Consulting Association did so in secret immediately following the collapse of the previous blacklist. Mr Kerr admitted before the Scottish Affairs Committee that shortly after the ICO raid in 2009 he burnt up to 90% of the records held by the Consulting Association on the instructions of Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd. This shows not only a sickening contempt for the workers whose livelihoods were destroyed by this blacklist, but also that the blacklisters would be prepared to do it again and have no reservations or scruples when it comes to protecting their profits, whatever the human cost.
Further, investigations into the Consulting Association have provided increasing evidence for the involvement of UK police and security services in the maintenance of the blacklist. As yet, no effective inquiry has been put into place to investigate the full extent of blacklisting in the construction industry and the level of collusion between this illegal enterprise and the UK authorities. It is inconceivable that successive British governments could not have been aware of the existence of blacklisting and the fact that the current government has refused to hold a full inquiry into the involvement of the British state clearly shows its own guilt.
The above shows that the blacklisting of trade unionists and politically active workers is an integral part not only of the UK construction industry but also of British capitalism as a whole. The bosses’ state will not lift a finger against its big business backers. Only the workers themselves, united with the support of students, can force the bosses to reveal their dirty secrets and bring their rotten system to an end!
Justice for blacklisted workers!
The Marxist Student Federation condemns the blacklisting of workers by construction companies and gives full support to the call from the TUC for a full ‘Leveson-style’ inquiry into blacklisting in the UK.
Blacklist the blacklisters!
The Marxist Student Federation calls on the Universities to refuse to grant construction contracts to any company which is known to have participated in blacklisting. The Marxist Student Federation acknowledges the Procurement Advice Note issued by the Welsh government in September 2013 and calls on the Universities to put effective measures in place to ensure that nowhere on their campus or halls of residence is tainted by blacklisting.
–Passed unanimously by the Marxist Student Federation