Monday, 24 August 2015

Shameside Labour exposed over links to 'Blacklisting' construction companies!

Unapologetic - Kieran Quinn

REPORTS have reached Northern Voices that all is not well with the contract cleaners who have recently been sacked, following the closure of the council offices in Ashton-under-Lyne.  It seems that some of the cleaners who were working for the agency 'Sky Blue', have been dismissed without receiving notice and holiday pay, which they say, is owing to them.

The hideous and monstrous looking building, which is situated on Wellington Street, has been closed and is awaiting demolition as part of a remodernization plan by Tameside Council, aimed at cutting jobs and services to save money.

Sky Blue, is owned by the construction company Carillion, who are now responsible for estate and management services involving the maintenance of council buildings, cleaning, and caretaking.  The construction company, which is classed as a 'partner' by the council, also sponsors two academy schools in Tameside and runs the cafe in Stamford Park, Ashton-under-Lyne.  They are also involved in the provision of school meals for children attending schools in the Tameside area.

Tameside's links to both Carillion and the construction company Kier, has proved to be controversial. Both construction companies were linked to a secretive and clandestine organisation known as the Consulting Association, that operated a 'blacklist' of known trade union activists working within the British building trade, on behalf of 44 construction companies.

In 2009, the offices of the Association were raided by officials working for the Information Commissioner, who discovered blacklisting files (an illegal database), containing the personal details of over 3,200 construction workers.  Both Carillion and Kier, are two of eight construction companies that are currently being sued in the High Court, for being part of an unlawful conspiracy to blacklist construction workers.  Blacklisting files also show that the Carillion-owned Sky Blue employment agency, was also involved in blacklisting.

Although it has been illegal for over 35-years to dismiss a worker for his or her trade union activities, blacklisting also contravenes Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which relates to privacy and Article 11, which relates to freedom of association.

It is known that between October 1999 and April 2004, Carillion paid the Association, over £32,000 for vetting construction workers. In June 2012, the GMB trade union, published a report on blacklisting - 'BLACKLISTING - ILLEGAL CORPORATE BULLYING - ENDEMIC, SYSTEMATIC AND DEEP-ROOTED IN CARILLION AND OTHER COMPANIES'.  The report was sent to every Labour councillor in the country with a covering letter from GMB General Secretary, Paul Kenny.  In 2013, the GMB union, started legal proceedings against Carillion for conspiracy and defamation.

Although Carillion claim that they ceased to use the services of the Association in 2004, they were still being sent invoices in 2009 and their main contact, Liz Keates, continued to receive mail outs. Crown House, part of the Carillion group, also maintained its subscription.

In evidence given in the case of Smith (Dave Smith) v Carillion in January 2012, at the Central London Employment Tribunal, Carillion admitted that two of its subsidiaries, John Mowlem and Schal International, had 'penalised' Smith for being a trades unionist.  He was victimized for highlighting safety hazards on sites including asbestos. Dave Smith has said that within a year of being put on the blacklist, his earnings fell from £36,000 a-year to £12,000 a-year, and his children finished up claiming milk tokens.

In evidence given to to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee(SASC), who launched an inquiry into blacklisting in June 2012, Alan Wainwright, a blacklister turned whistleblower, confirmed that Carillion had operated a blacklist and that he'd discussed the blacklist with Frank Duggan, the group personnel director for Carillion.  At the Labour Party conference held in Brighton in September 2013, Carillion was expelled from the conference after delegates objected to their presence because of their links to the Consulting Association and blacklisting.

In March 2014, the SASC, said that it was up to the state at a national, devolved or local level, to ensure that blacklisting did not recur by using its leverage as a contractor.  Firms, it argued, had to demonstrate they had 'self-cleansed' - 'cleaned-up, owned-up, and paid-up', before being awarded public contracts.

The Welsh government has told its public bodies that firms can be excluded from public contracts under the 'Public Contracts Regulations 2006', because blacklisting can amount to grave misconduct. The Scottish government has told its public bodies that they can end contracts if firms are found to be blacklisting or discriminating against trade union members.  In March 2014, the Northern Ireland Assembly agreed to similar rules.

Despite damning evidence linking Carillion with the odious practice of blacklisting, the Labour controlled council in Tameside, Greater Manchester, have refused to answer questions about their links with Carillion.  In August 2011, Brian Bamford, Secretary of Tameside Trades Council, wrote to Kieran Quinn, the Labour leader of the council, asking why the council was awarding public contracts to a company that had links to the Consulting Association. Blacklisted electricians, also picketed sites in Tameside being run by Carillion, which attracted the attention of the local press.  To date, neither Quinn or the council have responded to either the press or Trades Council about this matter.

Yet, in October 2011, (two months after Bamford's first letter and the protest action by blacklisted trades unionists), Quinn, as Chairman of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF), was proudly announcing that Carillion had won a £60m contract to build a mixed-use development in St Peter's Square, Manchester, as part of a development between 'Argent' and the Greater Manchester Property Venture Fund, which is part of the GMPF. Quinn, (a former CWU union official), told the press:

'We underwent a vigorous and lengthy process to ensure that the right contractor was selected for the construction of One St Peter's square. Experience, reputation and ability to deliver, were of paramount importance, as we are committed to ensuring that this is a very high quality scheme and that it is completed within the projected time.'

As for Carillion's reputation, which Mr Quinn speaks so highly of, we would suggest that both the council leader and the disgruntled and unpaid cleaners from the Tameside council offices, might benefit from speaking to the GMB trade union about their experiences of Carillion.  GMB members working for Carillion at Swindon Hospital, low-paid ancillary workers, mainly from Goa in India, complained of racist bullying, corruption and bribery.  Ten of them found themselves disciplined and their union reps targeted.  The GMB workers went on strike for 21 days.  They were all employed by Carillion which built and runs Swindon Hospital under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).  The blacklisting files show that Carillion blacklisted workers during the construction of Swindon Hospital.

1 comment:

Mark 'H' said...

A so called Labour council screwing the workers, again. Jeremy Corbyn supports the fight against blacklisting, as well as the Green Party. Also the scrapping of all the anti trade union laws.