Brian Higgins is Secretary of the construction workers’ union, UCATT branch in Northampton, and a prominent member of the rank and file, Building Worker group. He was sent a copy of a 49 page file, which The Consulting Association had on him. It dates back to 1976 and goes on till December 2006. He is one of the 3200 named construction workers on TCA’s blacklist. The issue was addressed in the impressive article, Boys from the Blacklist, written by Phil Chamberlain, published in the Guardian, on 21st November.
One of the most serious issues raised in this article is that, “One effect of the release of files has been to question how far some union officials were involved in supplying details to The Consulting Association.” In 1996, the fulltime UCATT official, Dominic Hehir, took Brian to the High Court in an attempt to silence him and those he represents in UCATT. Hehir was unsuccessful because of the widespread support Brian won (including from the Scottish Socialist Alliance at the time). Brian refused to be silenced. At the time, the then General Secretary did not try to oppose Hehir.
Furthermore, an ex-UCATT Executive Council member, John Flavin, set up a company to advise building employers not long after he was voted off the EC in 1995. Despite this, he continued to be a member of UCATT. Quite a few UCATT members, including the Northampton branch, protested to the General Secretary and the EC about this.
Therefore, it would be no surprise to learn that some UCATT officials could have been supplying information on Brian and others to the building employers, black-listers, and who knows to who else. It is absolutely loathsome and repugnant in the extreme that there could be people in UCATT, and perhaps other unions, who could resort to such treachery and sink to the depths alluded to in the Guardian article.
It looks as if the names of one, two or more of these beings could be among the many names blacked out on Brian’s file. Brain has won a ruling from the Information Commissioner’s Office, retaining the original unredacted information pending any legal case. Whatever happens there should be an investigation into this case. This should involve blacklisted construction worker trade unionists, MPs, academics and investigative journalists with records of sympathy for the trade union and workers’ movement. If anybody is found guilty they should be named, rooted and drummed out of our movement in disgrace. If such an investigation does not take place, then the name of trade unionism will be tainted and sullied.