Monday, 9 July 2012

Blacklist: Tommy Sheridan & Steve Acheson

Tommy Sheridan has revealed that he was kept under surveillance by the Consulting Association blacklisting conspiracy over a period of 14 years while he was first an elected councillor and latterly while he served as an elected Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP). Sheridan's blacklist file, recently disclosed by the Information Commissioners Office, covers the period 1995 to 2009 and relates to times when he had supported campaigns connected to the construction industry including his visits to picket lines involving construction workers and his advocacy of improved working conditions across the building industry.

It was originally thought that the construction industry blacklist only covered trade union members but recently released files prove that the Consulting Association also spied on academics, journalists, lawyers and elected politicians on behalf of the 44 largest building contractors in the UK. Tommy Sheridan is the first of the elected politicians to confirm he was spied on and featured on the blacklist.

Tommy was elected to Glasgow City Council from his prison cell in Saughton jail in 1992 as he served a sentence related to opposition to the poll tax and specifically poll tax warrant sales. He served 4 months of a 6 month sentence and was elected to the council in May 1992. The Consultancy Association file on Sheridan begins in 1995. He was elected to serve as a Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Glasgow Region in 1999. The secret file on him covers 1995 through to 2009. Sheridan served two terms in the Scottish Parliament before narrowly losing his seat in 2007.

The fact the file stretches over a 14 year period proves how determined the Consultancy Association was to keep tabs on individuals they deemed to be potential trouble-makers. The blacklist file records events such as Sheridan's support for striking electricians in Edinburgh in 2000 and support of community protests against the M77 extension through woodland and wildlife areas in his constituency. One entry relates to a time when he was acting on official council business and assisted constituents to gain employment as security guards on a Beazer Homes construction project. The blacklist file contains completely untrue smears including claims that Sheridan was going to be given one of the Council houses under construction!! There is two entries in the file related to this period, March and May 1995, and an identified 'source' with initials attached is recorded as the origin of the information.

Other information on the blacklist file comes from press cuttings, while some information was supplied by the Scandinavian multi-national construction giant Skanska.

Tommy Sheridan said last Friday:
'Everyone in the labour movement suspected for years that big companies compiled secret blacklists containing trade unionists and activists but now those suspicions are proven to be a sad reality. For daring to support construction workers fighting for better wages and conditions you find yourself placed on a blacklist. Because I supported local constituents getting jobs on local construction sites I was blacklisted. These companies are sinister and secretive and can ruin the livelihoods of trade union members who dare to speak up for their fellow workers. The full extent of the activities of groups like the Consultancy Association have to be exposed. Who financed them? Who supplied them with their information? Who used the information? As a socialist who opposes big business exploitation I expect to be targeted but thousands of ordinary workers have been unable to find work because they appear on these files. It is a scandal and a disgrace and it must be fully exposed.'

Francie Graham, blacklisted electrician from Dundee who recently gave evidence to the Select Committee said:
'I always had to travel for work because I could never find work in Dundee and hardly ever in Scotland. I had to work down South in London and Wales.  The first entry on my blacklist file is from 1975 from a job for Dundee City Council when I was active in the union.  I had to work through agencies who are out with our national agreements, where I got no protection from any legislation. There were many times when I have been tapped on the shoulder and told there was no work for me when everyone else on the job carried on working. I recently lost my wife. I believe that always travelling and only getting home every 4 or 6 weeks for a weekend affected my wife's health. This blacklist hasn't just had an impact on my working life, its evil tentacles spread into all areas of family life.'

Evidence recently appeared in The Observer newspaper that some entries on blacklist files could only have been supplied by the police or security services and resulted in calls for a full public inquiry by Michael Meacher MP, John McDonnell MP and Drew Smith MSP. The Scottish Affairs Select Committee in the Westminster parliament chaired by Ian Davidson MP is currently carrying out an investigation into blacklisting. David Cameron has even answered questions about the issue in Prime Minister's Questions.

Steve Acheson, spokesperson for the Blacklist Support Group (and blacklisted electrician from Manchester) said:
'I was one of thousands of building workers have been blacklisted for standing up for our most basic legal rights at work.  These multi-national companies have deliberately victimised me because I was a member of a trade union.  Thousands of lives have been ruined by this blacklisting conspiracy with the with the active support of the police, Special Branch and the security services. Now it seems that they were also spying on elected politicians.  When celebrities got their mobile phones hacked there was a public inquiry - where is our justice?'

BIG Blacklisting day in the Westminster parliament -
TUES 10th July 2012:
2pm - Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation takes evidence into Blacklisting in employment.
6pm - Grand Committee Room - Blacklisting, bullying and shakedowns by Carillion.
7pm - Committee Room 7 - TUCG seminar chaired by John McDonnell MP - Justice at Work - including blacklisting.

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