Delegates from King’s College London will debate a motion opposing the practice of ‘blacklisting’ (denying work to unionists, activists and other ‘troublemakers’) by construction firms at the upcoming NUS conference. Should this motion pass, it will represent a qualitative development in our ‘Blacklist the Blacklisters’ campaign.
Last year comrades from the KCL Marxist society moved an anti-blacklisting motion through their student union and at a student council meeting last night defended another motion calling on the NUS to combat blacklisting at a national level. The motion was upheld unanimously by the student council.
The motion (reproduced below) notes a boom in construction work on campuses as a result of rising student cohorts and resolves to lobby universities to deny contracts to firms with a history of blacklisting union activists (such as Balfour Beatty and the Morrison Group).
Additionally, the motion notes that the ‘blacklist’ of 3,000 individuals seized during a raid on the offices of professional snoop Ian Kerr by the Information Commissioner’s Office in 2009 represented only a “small amount” of the records held, as Kerr managed to destroy a great deal more. Thus there is no telling how many thousands of activists might have been targeted and it is likely that this despicable practice remains widespread.
Given this, and the lack of an effective inquiry into the full extent of blacklisting in the construction industry or the level of collusion between Kerr and the British authorities, the motion offers support to the TUC for a full ‘Leveson-style’ inquiry into blacklisting in the UK.
This motion will be defended by KCLSU delegates at the NUS conference in April. In the meantime, comrades from the KCL Marxist Society will consult with these delegates, providing them with information on the issue and ensuring that the motion is presented within the wider context of capitalist exploitation and attacks on workers.
Universities spend tens of millions of pounds on construction annually. King’s College London recently committed to an £85m development in Canada Water, with the lucrative contract going to the prolific blacklisters at Balfour Beatty.
It is the responsibility of the student movement to ensure that their campuses and halls of residences are not tainted by the scourge of blacklisting. If the KCL Marxists’ motion carries at the NUS conference it will provide a rallying cry to student unions up and down the country to oppose this vile practice.
In the past several months, victims of Kerr’s blacklist have won a number of legal victories, resulting in admissions of culpability from employers and modest financial settlements, but this is not enough. Justice will not have been done until blacklisting is expunged from Britain once and for all, which will not happen while private construction firms are free from oversight: they must be nationalised forthwith, the exploiters at the helm expropriated without compensation and their resources placed into the hands of workers.
Motion Title: Blacklist the Blacklisters
In February 2009, the offices of Ian Kerr (founder of the Consulting Association (CA))i were raided by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), exposing the existence of a ‘blacklist’ containing the personal details of 3,213 people, largely construction workers.ii
According to the Guardian, “Ian Kerr spent more than 30 years compiling blacklisting files on workers considered by managers to be politically troublesome […] One of his bosses said he infiltrated “a lot” of trade union meetings and was “a key guy.”’ iii
Mr Kerr admitted before the Scottish Affairs Committee that shortly after the ICO raid in 2009 he destroyed records held by the Consulting Association, meaning that the ICO only saw a “small amount” of the records held.iv
Further investigations into the Consulting Association have provided increasing evidence for the involvement of UK police and security services in the maintenance of blacklists.v
This year universities have a larger intake than usual as caps on student numbers have been lifted, leading to a boom in construction work on campuses.
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.
Conference resolves to lobby universities to refuse to grant construction contracts to any company that is known to have participated in blacklisting. The union acknowledges the Procurement Advice Note issued by the Welsh government in September 2013vi and calls on university management to put effective measures in place to ensure that nowhere on our campus or halls of residence is tainted by blacklisting.
Conference 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.
ii http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmscotaf/writev/blacklisting/blacklisting.pdf, 7.