VOAG-Logo-(Brick)5-transparPolice colluded in secret plan to blacklist 3,200 building workers

IPCC tells lawyers representing victims it is likely that all special branches were involved in providing information

The Observer, Saturday 12 October 2013
Police officers across the country supplied information on workers to a  blacklist operation run by Britain’s biggest construction companies, the police watchdog has told lawyers representing victims.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission has informed those affected that a Scotland Yard inquiry into police  collusion has identified that it is “likely that all special branches  were involved in providing information” that kept certain individuals  out of work.

The IPCC’s disclosure confirms suspicions voiced by the information commissioner’s office last year that the police had been involved in providing some of the information held on the files, as revealed by this newspaper.

The admission has been welcomed by campaigners for the 3,200 workers whose  names were on the blacklist that was run for construction companies as  “absolute evidence” of a conspiracy between the state and industry that  lasted for decades.

Dave Smith, an engineer who had a 36-page file under his name and was  repeatedly victimised for highlighting safety hazards on sites,  including the presence of asbestos, said he was delighted that the IPCC  had revealed “the truth”. He added: “For the past five years, when we  have been saying the police were involved, we were told we were talking  nonsense and it was a conspiracy theory. They wanted it to go away. Now  we have the absolute evidence and this is no longer about industrial  relations but is a major human rights scandal involving a conspiracy  between the police and the industry.”A worker lays bricks at a building siteThe blacklist, run by a company called the Consulting Association, funded by 40 major firms in the construction industry including Balfour Beatty and Sir Robert McAlpine, was discovered in  2009 after a raid by the information commissioner’s office. Since then,  the victims have fought to find out who was providing information  against them. The IPCC’s correspondence is regarded as a major  breakthrough.

However, the watchdog’s disclosure has been disputed by a subsequent letter to the victims’ solicitors. This was sent by a  recently appointed senior investigating officer for the inquiry into the activities of undercover police officers, known as Operation Herne.

In a letter, seen by the Observer, detective inspector Steve Craddock insists that the IPCC’s statement is incorrect and that he has seen “no conclusive evidence” that Scotland  Yard shared information with the blacklisters.

The IPCC is  standing by its correspondence, which it says was informed by  discussions with the Metropolitan Police and that “developments since  that … are a matter for the Metropolitan Police”.

In response, a spokesman for Craddock said Operation Herne’s investigating officer was “aware of the apparent contradiction and is looking into how that may  have arisen”. She added: “Operation Herne will report on the  ‘blacklisting’ matter to the Metropolitan Police commissioner in due  course.”

The developments come as the group fighting for justice  for the blacklisted workers has received confirmation of a meeting  between undercover police officers and those running the blacklist in  November 2008. The information commissioner’s officers have confirmed in a freedom of information response that they hold notes from a meeting  between the Consulting Association and officers from the police national extremism tactical co-ordination unit, which runs undercover officers.

The notes of the 2008 meeting are part of a haul of documents seized by the information commissioner’s office when it discovered the existence of  the secret blacklist during a raid on an office in Droitwich,  Worcestershire.

Sir Robert McAlpine, which was allegedly a major player in the  establishment and funding of the blacklist, is currently being sued in  the high court over an unlawful conspiracy to amass a database of information against thousands of people.

Last week, in a dramatic twist, eight major construction companies, including Sir Robert McAlpine, announced  that they would compensate some of the 3,213 workers whose names had been on a blacklist. A statement said: “The companies – Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain,  Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci – all  apologise for their involvement with the Consulting Association and the  impact that its database may have had on any individual construction  worker.”

Sean Curran, a solicitor representing 69 victims in the  high court, said he cautiously welcomed the announcement but raised  concerns over the involvement of the unions, which are also suspected of providing information to the blacklist operation in some cases. He  said: “We note that there has been reference to the consultation of  Ucatt and Unite in the formulation of the proposed compensation scheme.  We express serious concern about the involvement of those organisations.

“We have seen evidence that implicates Amicus (which evolved into Unite)  and Ucatt officials in the supply of negative commentary about the  suitability of their members for employment. That commentary frequently  made its way onto the Consulting Association database and was no doubt  one of the factors that led to denials of employment.

“It is also  worthy of note that those unions refused to support their members in  bringing a High Court claim so that they could seek redress for the  hardship that they suffered. Many of those that we represent are firm  that they object to Unite or Ucatt playing any part in negotiations with the relevant companies for these reasons.”

Claire Windsor,  solicitor for the victims in regard to the complaint over police  collusion, said her clients had lost any faith in the ability of the  police to investigate themselves and that the blacklist support group  was now calling for a judge-led independent inquiry into blacklisting.The Voag

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