Blacklisting continues on a daily basis up and down the country. Why, oh why? With our best trade union activists denied work and kept off-sits, this massively lessens our ability to organise and stand up to building employers on site. This means no ELECTED conveners or other shop stewards or safety reps, and our lives at risk every day with no one we can trust to negotiate on our behalf with site management.


Des Warren - jailed Shrewsbury picket - political policing and employer blacklisting go hand-in-hand in the construction industry
Des Warren – jailed Shrewsbury picket – political policing and employer blacklisting go hand-in-hand in the construction industry

Employers, whose only concern is amassing ever more profit and wealth, see building workers in trade unions as troublesome and awkward and a threat to what they see as their absolute right to exploit and extract as much profit as [in]humanly possible from us. All this with no regard whatsoever for anything else like health and safety, or wages and conditions. If they could get away with it, they would put us all on or below the minimum wage (which quite a few are already on), and bring in more workers from overseas-who they see as cheap labour-but who we see as fellow workers entitled to decent wages-to make up the numbers. Although they basically don’t like unions, they are quite happy to work with, and control, APPOINTED full-time officials and stooge convener stewards. What they do not want are ELECTED site stewards who will strive to ensure sites [that] are 100% safe, and workers on them earn good wages and have decent working conditions. And if you hint at any of these things in today’s construction industry, you are sacked and blacklisted on the spot. Witness Crossrail dispute. This cannot be allowed to continue any longer. Enough is Enough!


We applaud the Blacklist Support Group, and also thank those in the unions, like the sparks in UNITE, as well as Labour MPs in Parliament, European MPs, plus all those journalists and their organisations who have helped so much to publicise, and helped so much in the fight against this anti-social, anti-democratic and sinister practice. We also thank lawyers Guney Clark and Ryan, without whom we blacklisted workers would have been left legally high and dry. Together we have put blacklisting on the political, social and legal map of Britain, and the sparks with their action over BESNA , and now Crossrail, have put it firmly on the industrial map.

However, in spite of this tremendous effort and all that has been done to date, building employers continue to blacklist rank and file trade unionists with impunity. It is now painfully obvious that something extra is needed-That is to realise blacklisting will only come to an end when rank and file site workers hit building employers in the only place it really hurts, the pocket! And we can only do this by stopping and seriously affecting production on site.


To reach the level of democratic organisation on site and in the unions where we can seriously start to affect production over blacklisting will take quite a bit of planning and organising. We think the National Rank and File Committee, elected by 500 site workers, mainly sparks, at the meeting in the Conway Halls in August 2011 should meet and discuss and agree on a plan of [industrial] action against the Blacklist in Construction. And it is obvious this must be directed at building sites, and pickets used to spread the word and action at times.


Although they are currently the most blacklisted group of site workers because they are best organised, other trades and occupations are also being blacklisted, and it will plainly need all trades and occupations to unite and fight blacklisting together to put a stop to it.


Once the R&F get organised and start moving, we can pressurise full-time union officials (FTOs) to not only talk about blacklisting, but get off their arses and get involved and actually do something about it, just as the sparks forced FTOs in UNITE to get involved in the BESNA dispute. But, just as with BESNA, the R&F must remain in control at all times.

The R&F should also go for the support of concrete drivers [stop the mixer, stop the job!], workers in the power industry, civil engineering and transport who deliver building supplies. Our potential power is massive. Let’s start to use it to stop blacklisting, and the lack of health and safety on our sites, and to force recognition of unions on site, and the DEMOCRATIC union organisation which must go with this if we are to succeed.


We must stop it once and for all. There will not be another opportunity like we have today for a long time. We owe it to those who have fought tooth and nail over the years against the blacklist, and for union recognition, and better safety, wages and conditions in construction. Like those site workers involved in the last national strike in the building industry in 1972, and the late, great Des Warren, one of the Shrewsbury pickets and a leader of the ’72 strike. He spent three years in jail after trumped up charges were brought against him and others arising from the ’72 strike, but who kept on fighting for what he believed in while in prison, and after he was released, until his premature death, which was caused by the effects of drugs forcibly administered to subdue him while in prison.

And let’s not forget the Pentonville Dockers who were jailed in 1971 by the then Tory Government for refusing to give up the right to strike, picket and organise. Then when rank and file workers, mainly in London, came out on political strike for their release, which in turn triggered moves towards a general strike from below, the Gov’t called an emergency meeting of the cabinet and found a way which saw the Pentonville dockers released from Pentonville Prison hours later!

Alan Keays, Siteworker bulletin

also see
Red Baiting And Slurs

The First Shoots of a New Industrial Fightback?