Brian Higgins of the rank and file Building Workers Group sent us this obituary for Dave Williams, a militant building worker and like Brian on the employers’ black list.
Recently I received the very sad news that blacklisted bricklayer Dave Williams died in November following a serious illness. Condolences to Dave’s family and friends.
He was one of the best and most principled trade unionists I have ever had the privilege of knowing and working alongside. I first met him when I went to London in 1977 to work on the Fairweather site near Clapham Junction where 550 council houses were being built.
There was some union organisation on site when I arrived. Dave was already there. Then after a worker on site was badly injured Dave and I and some workers in other occupations got together and decided the existing union organisation needed seriously improving. A fully representative twelve person site stewards’ committee was elected at a mass meeting, Dave was one of two brickie stewards and I was elected Convenor. For the two years after this until the site finished there was not one minor, never mind major, injury – a record we were all extremely proud of.
Dave was also a member of the Laing’s Lock out Committee in 1985. The Committee was composed of our 4+2 bricklaying gang – all members of UCATT and also supporters of the rank & file Building Worker Group. The committee was formed after our gang on the Laing Homes site in Surbiton were sacked by brick sub contracting firm Jonoroy on the orders of main contractor John Laing in October 1985. Laing told Jonoroy they had found out we were union men. Jonoroy told us they were more than satisfied with our rate and standard of work but they still sacked us anyway.
In response to this we immediately went into struggle against this obvious and blatant use of the blacklist in construction against known union activists. During this time with the help of our supporters, we stopped production on four sites in London and seriously interrupted production on a few others with flying pickets.
Then in February 1986, Laing took out a High Court Injunction against us under the 1982 anti-union laws. This ordered us to stop picketing, meeting and even speaking about our dispute and threatened us with two years in jail and very, very heavy fines if we did not comply.
The Lock Out Committee decided we would rather go to jail than give up the precious rights and freedoms won by past generations of workers, which Laing and the High Court intended to remove with their injunction. So we carried on our dispute over the blacklist regardless.
When the High Court Injunction was not implemented in response to this, because of the threat of political strike action by thousands of workers if we were jailed, we understandably felt we had Laing on the run and we were on the verge of a victory, which would be the beginning of the end of this vile and sinister practice.
Then out of the blue, a bombshell was delivered to us in the form of a letter signed by UCATT General Secretary, Albert Williams, as Secretary of union side of the NJCBI, and the Building Employers Secretary which instructed us to stop our dispute with Laing. It also added all official support for this had been removed by UCATT, which left us hung out to dry.
This dirty deal and absolute accommodation of the blacklist by UCATT GS Williams and the Executive Council not only betrayed us and all site trade unionists subject to the blacklist in those days. It also betrayed future generations of construction trade unionists as was proved with the discovery of the Consulting Association blacklist in 2009. Dave Williams name appears on the Consulting Association blacklist.
Dave Williams was an important and integral part of the monumental struggle of the Laing’s lock Out Committee against the blacklist in construction and the anti union laws. Just as he was of the union site organisation at Fairweather’s which ensured the total safety of all workers on site. Safety is always the major objective of all who try to organise in construction. For this Dave Williams was punished with his name appearing on the Economic League and the Consulting Association blacklist.
Dave deserves to be remembered by all who are still battling to stop the blacklist and the killing and maiming in construction. As do all of our brothers who took part in past struggles over these two vital issues but are no longer with us.
Ex Chair Laing’s Lock Out Committee and severely blacklisted building worker
For further articles on the blacklist see:-