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Posted on 19 December 2016 at 11:40 GMT

Trade union news

Open letter from blacklisted construction workers

We the undersigned, are writing this open letter in the spirit of fraternal debate amongst members of the newly merged UCATT/UNITE construction union.

The upsurge in industrial militancy in the last few years demonstrates that when the official union works alongside rank and file activists, it is possible to mobilise workers even in a hostile environment. The merger offers an opportunity to start anew the fight against the appallingly high fatality rates and casualisation of the construction industry by combining the best traditions of the two unions.

However, one issue threatens to cause internal friction: possible union collusion in blacklisting.

Some years ago, both UCATT and UNITE carried out internal investigations into possible union involvement in blacklisting. But that was at a time when barely any of the documentation was available.

Since the High Court, all that has changed. The employers were forced to provide witness statements and disclose 40 years worth of documentary evidence. It is now in the public domain that officials in both unions were recorded as the source of information on Economic League and Consulting Association blacklist files. Some of those named, remain senior officials in UNITE and UCATT to this day. Every union activist in construction knows who the named officials are, as does every major employer.

The leadership of both unions have now seen the evidence: discussions about those officials potentially implicated in blacklisting or with overly cosy relationships with industrial relations managers has been part of the behind the scenes discussions in the run up to the merger.

The High Court litigation won a multi-million pound settlement for blacklisted workers. We fully acknowledge and recognise the tremendous legal, political and industrial campaigns that the unions have undertook.

But compensation is not the same as justice: there has still been no-one held accountable for their actions. We remain resolute in calling for a public inquiry into blacklisting. But that is for a future Corbyn government. Now is the time to put our own house in order.

We the undersigned call upon the new UNITE construction section to engage an independent legal expert to carry out a thorough investigation of the allegations relating to union collusion in blacklisting, with a remit drawn up in conjunction with the blacklisted workers. If the implicated officials are completely innocent, then this is their opportunity to clear their name once and for all. But if the independent investigation concludes that there is a case to answer, then the union should take the appropriate disciplinary action. We are not looking for a witch-hunt, we simply want answers into possible union collusion in order to avoid repeating mistakes of the past.

This issue has haunted the union for years and until it is prepared to act, it will continue to be a running sore that hinders building unity in the newly merged union. We need to unite in order to fight against unscrupulous employers and the Tories, but the newly merged union needs to start with a clean slate.

We urge members to please attend your branch or regional meetings, and send a motion in support of an independent investigation to the UNITE EC.

Yours fraternally:

Blacklist Support Group

Construction Rank and File (national)

Steve Acheson - ex-UNITE branch secretary & safety rep

Dave Ayre - ex-Crook UCATT branch secretary

Roy Bentham - ex-UCATT steward & secretary UNITE Liverpool construction

Graham Bowker - treasurer UNITE Manchester contracting branch

Graeme Boxall - branch secretary UNITE London construction branch

Ian Bradley - UNITE London contracting branch

John Bryan - retired Bermondsey UCATT

Dan Collins - UNITE London construction branch

John Connolly - UNITE Liverpool

Paul Crimmins - ex-UCATT branch secretary & steward

Stewart Emms - ex UCATT full time official

John Flannaghan - ex-UCATT, Merseyside Asbestos Victims Support Group

Jack Fawbert - ex-UCATT convener

Lee Fowler - ex-offshore safety rep, UNITE

George Fuller - ex-UCATT safety rep

Jim Grey - Jubilee Line steward, UNITE London contracting

Jim Harte - chair UNITE Combine Committee

Brian Higgins - ex-UCATT Eastern Regional Council & branch secretary

Kevin Holmes - chair, UNITE Manchester construction branch

Stewart Hume - UNITE construction NISC

John Jones - ex-UCATT London Regional Council

Tony Jones - UNITE Manchester construction branch

Steve Kelly - Jubilee Line steward, ex-UNITE branch secretary

Stephen Kennedy - Jubilee Line steward, UNITE

Greig McArthur - UNITE construction NISC

Frank Morris -UNITE EC member for construction

Tony O'Brien - ex-UCATT Southwark convenor & branch secretary

Jason Poulter - secretary UNITE Manchester construction branch

Jim Ryan -Crossrail steward, UNITE London contracting

Pete Shaw - UNITE construction RISC, Combine committee

Dave Smith - ex-UCATT branch secretary & London Regional Council

Frank Smith - ex-UCATT branch secretary & steward

Billy Spiers - chair UNITE construction NISC, ex-AMICUS EC member

Tony Sweeney - ex-UCATT Liverpool convenor

(all the individuals above are signing in a personal capacity)

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