By John Millington
The classic saying from philosopher Karl Marx: “Workers have nothing to lose, except their chains” perhaps applies to blacklisted workers more than any other.
Last night’s act of civil-disobedience in the pouring rain where blacklisted workers stopped traffic in the Oxford Circus area of London for nearly 2 hours, caused further annoyance to Crossrail and keeps the scourge of blacklisting in the public eye while keeping the pressure on the authorities to open a public inquiry into the scandal.
Campaigners are adamant that the practice is continuing to this day and that more evidence is on the verge of being released to prove that some high profile construction companies are still denying skilled workers jobs, simply for raising legitimate health and safety concerns.
Blacklisting in the construction industry during the 90’s, is currently the subject of a parliamentary select committee inquiry with the practice has being roundly condemned by Labour MP’s.
If the idea that blacklisting is continuing today, wasn’t worrying enough, widespread suspicion amongst construction workers of collusion by state agents in the gathering of sensitive political and personal information for their blacklist files unearthed in 2011, was given extra traction this week.
Jack Winder – ex Economic League, the pre-cursor to the Consulting Association and Director of Caprim Ltd from 1994-2009 gave evidence to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation into blacklisting.
Winder admitted having contacts and holding regular meetings with Metropolitan Police, West Midlands and Scottish Special Branch at least up to 1994.
Many meetings took place in a pub next to Scotland Yard, he admitted.
This is in addition to the late Ian Kerr’s admission last month to the Times newspaper that his consulting association blacklist regularly consulted police about “bad eggs” in the industry.
Whether blacklisting is taking place today (and it should be noted, the technology and mindset exists amongst some construction bosses to make it happen) the consequences are still being felt today.
Take construction worker “Stephen” – not his real name – who was on the protest last night.
He suffers from a serious heart condition, which can’t be proven to have been solely down to blacklisting.
But 8 years of working in the “black economy” and living on the breadline has certainly not helped.
He has days when he can stand for an hour or so, as he was yesterday.
But then there are days when his heartbeat is so unpredictable he can’t sit up in bed.
Now he is receipt of disability benefit has to meet Atos next week – a prospect that fills him with dread.
The campaign for compensation, justice and an end to this appalling practice is not about to stop anytime soon.