Written by Stewart Hume, electrician and Unite activist from Scotland who was sacked for union activities but reinstated after his fellow union members threatened industrial action on his site. He is now one of Unite's leading lay reps campaigning against the blacklisting of thousands of workers who have lost their livelihoods for no reason other than their union activity.
When more than four decades ago Ricky Tomlinson and his comrades were sent to jail it was for having the audacity to ‘stand up to the gaffer.’ www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/12/blacklisting-ruins-lives-wales-ricky-tomlinson Yet here we are still fighting, still campaigning to let workers belong to a trade union and stay true to that basic value – solidarity.
Ricky and his comrades spent sixteen months in prison. Their crime? Helping to organise the first ever national strike in the building trade for better wages and conditions - and winning. The bosses were incensed. Thirty pounds a week extra across the board was concrete proof that belonging to a union paid off. But it was more than that. Their strike demonstrated that collective action meant building workers could achieve fairer treatment in the construction industry.
The Shrewsbury 24 as they became known paid a heavy price for taking on the employers and winning. First they were locked up then when they were set free they were blacklisted.
But blacklisting isn’t just a thing of the past – it’s still going on today. Lives have continued to be ruined for exercising the right to belong to a trade union and take part in union activities.
When I was sacked by BBES (Balfour Beatty Engineering Services) I was lucky; my fellow Union members fought back with me and I was reinstated. But thousands of others who have lost their job – for no reason other than being a union activist – aren’t so lucky.
In March 2009 the Information Commissioner’s Office raided the offices of the Consulting Association and exposed the existence of a blacklist containing the details of 3,214 building workers. Over 40 UK construction companies were using secret files and the blacklist to vet new recruits.
Under the banner Own UP, Clean Up and Pay Up the campaign to end blacklisting goes on. Unite is proud to be part of the Blacklisting day of action on 20th November. As well as protests across the UK, there will be a rally in Old Palace Yard at 1p.m. followed by a lobby of Parliament in Committee Room 14 from 2pm-3pm.
Speakers at the lobby include Len McCluskey, Paul Kenny and Steve Murphy (General Secretaries of Unite, GMB and UCATT), Frances O’Grady (General Secretary of the TUC), Chuka Umunna MP and activists from the Blacklisting Support Group who will tell the lobby their own stories on how their lives and their families have been devastated by blacklisting.
Far too many construction workers – and people in other industries - have fallen victim to unscrupulous, anti-union employers. Support the day of action and say - enough. This has to stop. Own Up, Clean Up and Pay Up