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  • Blacklisted workers seek to prise open secrets of covert police surveillance

    Trade unionists blacklisted by major firms are pushing for the public inquiry into undercover policing to examine alleged collusion between covert police officers and company directors

    Blacklisted workers have intensified their campaign to uncover the extent of secret police surveillance operations against them.

    Covert police officers are alleged to have passed information they gathered on the trade unionists to multi-national firms who maintained a secret and unlawful blacklist.

    The blacklisted workers want the allegations examined by the public inquiry that has been established into the police’s use of undercover officers to infiltrate hundreds of political groups.

    That inquiry – to be headed by Lord Justice Pitchford – is drawing up its remit which is due to be announced by the end of July. This here and here gives some background on the inquiry that was set up by home secretary Theresa May.

    This week, the blacklisted workers said they have applied to be given a central role in the inquiry. In legal terms, they are seeking to be made a “core participant” in the inquiry.

    It is not yet known who will be the “core participants” in the Pitchford inquiry. The status is given to those who, for example, have a direct and significant interest in the issues that will be examined.

    On the blacklist: how did the UK’s top building firms get secret information on their workers?
    Read more
    It allows them to see evidence in advance of it being aired at the inquiry and to seek to cross-examine witnesses.

    The application by the Blacklist Support Group (BSG) has been made by Imran Khan, the lawyer who also represents Doreen Lawrence, the mother of murdered teenager Stephen. (For more details, see this).

    Dave Smith, the group’s spokesman, said: “Hopefully by the BSG applying for core participant status, we will be able to guarantee that spying on trade unions and passing over information to private companies becomes a theme within the Pitchford inquiry.”

    “Police and security services spying on trade unions is not a one-off aberration, it is standard operating procedure by the state.”

    An official watchdog closed down the blacklist in 2009 after discovering that major firms kept confidential files on workers deemed to be “trouble-makers”. Checks were run on trade unionists to deny them work if their names were on the list.

    The police’s role in giving information to the blacklist has yet to be fully brought into the public domain.

    Imran Khan, the lawyer working for the blacklisted workers. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
    Imran Khan, the lawyer working for the blacklisted workers. Photograph: Richard Saker/Richard Saker
    Read this, this, and this for accounts of how the police are alleged to have colluded with the blacklisters by gathering and sharing information on trade unionists.

    More than 580 blacklisted workers have launched legal action against 40 large construction firms in a case that is due to be heard in the High Court next year. They say the blacklisting files date from at least 1969.

    At a preliminary hearing this month, lawyers for the blacklisted workers told a court that the blacklisters had deliberately destroyed documents after they had been raided by the official watchdog, the information commissioner. (Read this for more details).

    Meanwhile, Smith, the co-author of a new book, Blacklisted : the Secret War between Big Business and Union Activists, is due to give a talk on the controversy on Tuesday June 2. This here gives details of the talk in London that is being organised by the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers and the Institute of Employment Rights.

    Rob Evans
    Thursday 28 May 2015 11.51 BST Last modified on Thursday 28 May 2015 12.00 BST

    Find this story at 28 May 2015

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