Monday, 9 March 2015

Glasgow Rank & File Conference

From Building Workers' Charter to Blacklist Support Group

At last Saturday's Rank & File building workers' conference in Glasgow I was reminded that as a young electrician I first attended a meeting of the Building Workers' Charter in Manchester in 1970,  when Peter Turner, then an anarchist editor of Freedom and a joiner I knew from London, invited me to the event in Longsite.  At that time, the Building Workers' Charter attracted shop stewards from the sites of London, Liverpool and Manchester: the demand of the Charter at that time was for £35 for a 35 hour week.  It was estimated that at its peak in the strike of 1972, more than a quarter of a million building workers on 9,000 sites were involved in actions across the country.  In the end the building employers' federation approved the largest pay rise ever agreed in the history of the British building trade.  

An Economic League pamphlet quoted a National Federation of the Building Trade report about the 1972 dispute:
'The end result of the incidents recorded in this file was that small but well-drilled groups were able to hold to ransom a whole industry employing a million or more men and thereby cause incalculable damage and loss.'   

Later the bosses hit back which some now say resulted in the arrest, trial and ultimate imprisonment of the Shrewsbury pickets.     

Last Saturday's Rank & File building worker's Conference in Glasgow, was confronted with issues such as the blacklist, health and safety concerns such as the recent death of Rene Tkacik on the Crossrail project, and the victimisation of whistle-blowers such as the building Daniel Collins who was recently dismissed after he raised safety issues.  Helen, a representative of the solicitors Leigh Day, addressed the Conference about the Inquest verdict on the death of Rene Tkacik.  The Umbrella company scam was discussed, as  was Rule 17., and the use of agency workers on the building sites. 

Conference decided that it would engage in a series of actions across the country in the coming months against Scanska -  the company  involved on Crossrail, considering that 4,000 electricians were going to be engaged on the project.  Dates such as the 11th and 18th March were suggested, and Dave Smith of the Blacklist Support Group said that civil disobedience and direct action was going to be the way forward.  

Dave Smith distributed copies of the new book that he and the journalist Phil Chamberlain have written entitled 'Blacklisted:  The Secret War between Big Business & Union Activists' to those present at the conference.
A Guest Speaker - Ian Davidson, the Labour MP for West Glasgow, spoke at the meeting.  Mr. Davidson MP, was chair of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation into blacklisting and he poured praise onto the campaigning work of the Blacklist Support Group, and ended his speech by saying that he supports the call for a full public enquiry into blacklisting as the only way of exposing the full extent of the conspiracy. 

During questioning from the floor Ian Davidson was asked by some of the building workers about the alleged involvement of paid trade union officials in both providing intelligence and enforcing the blacklist.  One speaker wondered what would happen if the names of full-time union officials implicated in the blacklist were revealed during cross-examination or examination in Chief, when the case goes to the High Court.  Mr. Davidson was careful in his reply saying that he had seen the item 'EEPTU says No!' in the blacklist files but said that he had seen nothing specific incriminating any individual trade union official. 

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