The Metropolitan Police has launched an investigation into police collusion with the blacklisting of construction workers under the supervision of the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
The Met had previously dismissed a complaint from the Blacklisting Support Group claiming that the police had been involved in compiling the Consulting Association’s blacklist, which contained background details on 3,213 workers, including their political beliefs, union activity and involvement in raising health and safety issues.
The probe comes after the Times published a posthumous interview with Ian Kerr, who was fined £5,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in 2009 for covertly maintaining and selling information from the Consulting Association blacklist, in which he claimed the organisation had “established links with the police and security services”.
“He recounted a meeting organised by the association in 2008 when eight construction industry directors were addressed by a ‘key officer’ from the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (NETCU), which was a Huntingdon-based police organisation set up to counter ‘extremist’ protest groups,” the Times reported.
Kerr died in December, a fortnight after giving evidence on construction blacklisting to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee. During his testimony, he named a number of high profile building firms that had used the Consulting Association’s database and promised to name individuals involved in blacklisting. He also said that blacklisting had taken place on projects linked to the London 2012 Olympics.
Building magazine subsequently obtained a letter to Olympic Delivery Authority chief executive Dennis Hone, who had repeatedly denied that blacklisting took place on the Olympic Stadium project, in which Balfour Beatty chief executive Mike Peasland admitted the company had checked 12 applicants for Olympics work against the Consulting Association’s database in 2008. However, he added, an internal review had found “no evidence” of these checks resulting in an applicant being denied employment.
In a statement, Balfour Beatty said it had not used the Consulting Association since it was raided by the ICO in 2009 and company policy now prohibits “the use or support of databases of ‘blacklisted’ people and the supply of information to such databases”.
Elsewhere, the GMB has called on the Scottish Affairs committee to investigate how and why several environmental activists ended up on the Consulting Association’s blacklist – and to look at whether NETCU had any involvement in their names being added to the database. The union said that it has been contacted by five women on the blacklist who have all confirmed they are environmental activists. The GMB is helping the women in obtaining their files from the ICO and assessing their legal claims for damages. All five, who are from Edinburgh, Leeds, Cornwall, Essex and the old county of Cleveland respectively, say that they have no idea how they came to be blacklisted.
Responding to the announcement of the Met’s investigation, Steve Murphy, general secretary of Ucatt, said: “This is a major step forward in discovering the full truth about blacklisting and winning justice for blacklisted workers.
“As more evidence emerges about the extent of the state’s involvement in blacklisting construction workers, it is essential that this investigation is followed by a full public inquiry into the vile and disgusting practice of blacklisting. Those whose lives were ruined must be given the full facts.”