TODAY the Daily Mirror journalist, Andrew Penman, reported that 'The wretched companies that ran an illegal blacklist of construction workers finally apologised in court yesterday, having agreed to pay around £50 million in compensation.'
However, the campaigners that have fought for justice in the last decade or more are arguing that compensation is not good enough, and what they want is to see the men and women who operated the blacklist through the Consulting Association and its predecessor the Economic League behind bars.
Graham Bowker, a 61-year-old electrician from Oldham in Lancashire, told Andrew Penman:
'...I'd been in continual employment for 31 years, often seven days a week... Then from 2003 to 2009 I barely worked for a total of 100 months... It began because I was a shop steward with Amicus... I was on a supermarket construction project and all I'd do is make sure the national agreement was stuck to and meet with management - and that was enough for me to be classed as a troublemaker.'
'At one site I was working for a sub-contractor and they were told that if I was kept on they'd get no work. My earnings massively declined, holidays went by the board... I feel very bitter and although I've had some compensation, I want to see custodial sentences.'
In today's Mirror Andrew Penman writes:
'Multiply what has happened to Graham by 3,000 and you begin to understand the scale of this scandal.'
And yet, even that would no begin to reveal the magnitude of the problem in the British building trade and beyond; because although 3,213 names were discovered by the Information Commissioner on the illegal data base held by the Consulting Association in 2009, he did not take all the files: later he admitted that he only took 10% of the blacklist files available.
Perhaps of even greater concern has been the evidence of involvement by the police and security services in the intelligence used to create the blacklist and possibly to enforce it.
The body of activists around the Blacklist Support Group in London, has helped to expose some of this.
This month, Howard Beckett the legal officer of Unite the Union, said:
'The difficult thing is actually proving a blacklist exists,' he said. 'If we have a public inquiry, the individuals who made the decisions must give statements in an open forum. In these proceedings, they steadfastly refused to give statements.
'Until we have an inquiry, we won’t know to what extent this practice goes on in the construction sector and indeed in other sectors.'
Graham Bowker was one of the Manchester electricians who began the campaign against the blacklist in the British building trade: see 'Boys on the Blacklist' published by Tameside TUC.