Welcome to our brothers and sisters from UCATT
It’s been two months now since the UK’s last dedicated construction union UCATT (Union of Construction Allied Trades & Technicians) merged into the Unite family to form the new Unite Construction Sector.
UCATT was a campaigning union created by the coming together during the twentieth century of a group of traditional craft unions representing carpenters, joiners, bricklayers and many construction based trades. It had strong representation across many sectors including local authority and housing association building maintenance, road maintenance operatives, and rather bizarrely, in its London region, a small group of midwives. Such is the interesting road to the further development of our great union.
Most trade unionists will know UCATT as being the lead trade union along with Unite that fought blacklisting. The long and arduous fight against major constructors including Carillion, Balfour Beatty, Laing O’Rourke and Sir Alfred McAlpine was ultimately one of the great victories of the labour movement. The scale of the blacklisting crimes in the UK’s construction industry was immense. Across decades, this consortium of constructors, with breathtaking arrogance, systematically destroyed the lives of honest, hardworking construction workers.
The records that were uncovered showed that thousands of working men and women had had every aspect of their lives scrutinised. The company set up by the consortium of major constructors, the Consulting Association, worked over decades compiling information on construction workers’ families, probing into every detail of their lives, often documenting the habits of wives and relatives. Lives and marriages were devastated as people just could not find work.
Yet the blacklisting, while pernicious in its intent, was also haphazard and indiscriminate in its execution. Many of those workers who were blacklisted had no history of political activity and to this day cannot fathom why they were targeted - and yet targeted they were. Such was the severity of the crimes, the size of the compensation was immense - £75m across 771 surviving claimants, across members of UCATT, Unite and the GMB.
It was a victory for the British worker, the trade union movement and for justice. But as we all know, you can’t buy back time. And many of those who suffered did not taste victory, as they had already passed away.
So we welcome our UCATT comrades with open arms. They have a fine and noble history within the trade union movement and of course, our region, the London & Eastern region, is the powerhouse of the British construction industry – so there’ll be plenty to do. Let’s get on and make some more history together.