Beating the blacklist, constructively

… and the anti-union laws.

It’s possible:

Victory against the blacklist
By Steve Kelly (London Construction Unite)
Tuesday, 26 August 2008

The blacklist in construction is back with a vengeance. It is a well known fact that the blacklist has been used against construction workers for many years especially since the Shrewsbury strike in 1972.

It was always difficult to prove, but in 2006 a case involving three Manchester electricians who were sacked from a job at the Royal Infirmary Hospital in Manchester (having been elected by the workers on that site as their shop stewards and safety rep), was heard at industrial tribunal brought by the T&GWU, now Unite, for unfair dismissal. Evidence was bought to the tribunal by an ex-employee of a well known electrical contractor called Haden. Alan Wainwright swore on oath that indeed a blacklist was most definitely in operation and there was a list of 500 electricians who had worked on the Jubilee Line extension, Pizers (in Kent), and the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden .

These sites were all organised by electricians in the past with elected shop stewards and safety reps .Any action taken on those sites would have been unofficial action which annoys firms as well as union bureaucrats. In construction that’s always been the case, and will continue to be so, due to the nature of the industry. Strike while the IRON IS HOT so to speak. The three electricians in Manchester eventually won the tribunal for unfair dismissal, sacked for organising in a trade union.

Two of the workers recently got work after bravely demonstrating outside the site every day since May 2006. A third worker, Steve Acheson, was still struggling to find work up to 3 weeks ago. Steve was offered a job at the Fiddlers Ferry power station in Warrington. Three weeks ago he was told he could start along with 20 others. Two hours later Steve was told by the company on site they only needed 19 workers .Seems like they realised who Steve was (steward from MRI).

The workers on site immediately said they would walk off the job unless Steve was employed. It was obvious to them the blacklist was being used against Steve. Unite full time officers were called in for talks with the company to avert a walkout by the men. After 4 weeks Steve had still not be offered a job on the site. On the 14th August the workers on site told the union that if Steve was not on the job by Monday 18th August they would not go into work and picket lines would be set up for Monday morning.

The other trades assured the electricians of their full support. Steve Acheson was given a job on the site within a couple of hours. This shows how, if workers unite and stick together and defend their fellow workers, the blacklist can be defeated. This kind of action may be necessary in the future – most likely on the Olympic project in Stratford, which is rumoured to need 9,000 workers when it is in full swing.

The main lesson here is all construction workers should join a union and take unofficial where necessary, especially when told not to by trade union officials. They would say we are breaking the law. Rank and file trade unionists have been doing that since 1834!

Unity is strength!

The workers united can never be defeated!

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