Blacklisted as ‘Troublemakers,’ U.K. Construction Workers Struggle for Justice

4:06 pm in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

Photo of Blacklist protests courtesy Blacklist Blog

Cross-posted from These These Times.

For years, they wondered why they kept getting turned down for jobs, even when they seemed well qualified. The workers might have all just chalked it up to bad luck if they hadn’t eventually discovered they were at the center of an extraordinary conspiracy.

An investigation by the U.K. government’s Information Commissioners Office (ICO) in 2009 revealed that some of the country’s most prominent construction firms had worked with a secretive company, The Consulting Association, to create a blacklist of workers with a history of being suspected “troublemakers” or labor advocates. As fresh details have recently surfaced in the British media, the scandal has taken on shades of a British crime thriller, a Sunday tabloid and a treatise on the English working class.

The government investigation found The Consulting Association trawled extensively for background information on about 3,200 workers and established a clearinghouse to help employers keep worksites free of subversive elements. Major industry players like Skanska used the database to scrutinize workers’ past labor disputes, from demands for back wages to complaints about unsafe working conditions. Following a media exposé in 2008, (met with flat denials by companies), public outrage flared, and workers organized to hold corporations accountable. But today, their demands for justice are still unmet.

The plot thickened last week with an Observer report linking law enforcement to the blacklist system. Testifying in an employment tribunal case brought by blacklisted engineer Dave Smith, ICO investigations manager David Clancy stated he had found files containing information so detailed, it must have been “supplied by the police or the security services.” Read the rest of this entry →