NSSN 261: Kill the Bill

NSSN Bulletin 261

Kill the Bill

Just over 2 weeks to go before the lobby of Tory Party Conference. If you’ve not yet organised your union branches and workmates to come along on Sunday, 4th October in Manchester, then do so now! The campaign to Kill the Bill is gathering momentum but there can be no let up.

It’s worth reminding ourselves of just a few of the draconian measures so we can use them to increase the opposition:-

  • Balloting thresholds of 50% turnout and then – for some occupations as yet unidentified – 40% of the total electorate …. from a government elected with a 24% vote
  • Using agency (or other casual) workers to break legitimate strike action … and no doubt threatening the benefits of those who refuse to scab
  • Having to give employers 2 weeks’ notice not only of strike action, but of social media posts or advertisements about strike action
  • The abolition of check-off throughout the public sector

[If you want to read more, you can download the House of Commons briefing paper at http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-7295#fullreport]

But while the campaign is growing, we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that every trade union member is either aware of the attacks about to be unleashed or what they will fully mean to them at work. The press has been falling over its undemocratic self to whittle on about one liners spoken by Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell decades ago to bother trying to report much about the Trade Union Bill.

When the time comes to ‘sell it’, the government and employers’ associations will do everything in their power to represent the bill as purely ‘democratic measures’ about balloting, when it is much, much more.

Each and every one of us has a job to do before then.

  • Make sure your union branch is publicising the dangers to every member – not just shop stewards.
  • Get your trades council to hold meetings and leaflet town centres.
  • Identify the largest workplaces in your area and organise with other union activists to do a mass leaflet drop before work.
  • Can you organise an NSSN meeting in your area? Contact us to discuss more if you can.

This Bill must be fought every step of the way …. with industrial action if necessary. For that to become a reality, workers must fully understand the issues and that’s our task at the moment. Otherwise – too late – workers will realise they’ve got a pig in a poke (which, admittedly, is the exact opposite of what some in the government may be worried about at the moment….)



7 days that dragged blacklisting into the political mainstream

by Dave Smith – 19th September 2015

Last week saw momentous changes which will alter the mainstream political landscape for the next few years and potentially for decades to come. In the past seven days, blacklisting has been dragged from a niche issue into the political mainstream.

Saturday – the election of Jeremy Corbyn as new leader of the Labour Party. The call for a full public inquiry into the blacklisting of trade unionists was prominent on his campaign leaflets. And the new leader of the Official Opposition has consistently supported blacklisted workers inside and outside parliament since the scandal broke, standing on picket lines to defend victimised construction workers long before we even knew of the existence of The Consulting Association.

Sunday – John McDonnell appointed as Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer. This was the most significant appointment of the entire shadow cabinet and sent an unambiguous message about the future political direction of the Labour Party. John McDonnell is a hero to the rank and file of the labour movement, turning up on every grassroots protest imaginable over the past 30 years: he is this generation’s Tony Benn. Blacklisted workers especially owe him a debt of honour. In the summer of 2009, when the blacklisting scandal had completely dropped off of the media radar, McDonnell chaired the first ever meeting of the Blacklist Support Group and has been our parliamentary spokesperson ever since. When most other MPs kept us at arm’s length, McDonnell championed out cause in parliament, at our public meetings and on early morning picket lines.

Monday – the Tories Trade Union Bill was debated in the House of Commons. This declaration of war on the unions places restrictions so harsh on the union movement, that even Tory MP & libertarian David Davis has compared it to Franco’s Spain. A fortnight ago, it was far from certain that the Labour Party was going to oppose the TU Bill in its entirety. But the election of Corbyn saw the whole Labour front bench cheer on Angela Eagle as she tore into the Tories mentioning the blacklisting scandal in her first ever speech as shadow Business Secretary. The TU Bill would require unions to provide the police with a list of all pickets involved in official strikes. Blacklisted workers know from bitter experience what happens when the police gather information about trade unionists – this is why we oppose the TU Bill which would create a state organised blacklist.

Tuesday – the Fire Brigades Union organised a packed Spycops TUC fringe meeting. Matt Wrack FBU Gen Sec told the meeting that undercover police units had targeted FBU activists as well those in the construction unions, UNISON, NUT and CWU. Blacklisted environmental activist Helen Steel told her harrowing story of John Dines, who she lived with in a long term relationship but turned out to be an undercover police officer sent to spy on her. She is one of 8 women activists currently suing the Met Police. Information gathered by undercover police units was supplied to the blacklist. We need full disclosure of all the evidence. The meeting called for no public contracts for blacklisting firms.

Wednesday – TUC Congress passes a composite motion on Blacklisting & undercover state surveillance of trade unions moved by blacklisted worker Bill Parry from UCATT and the debate was concluded by a speech from blacklisted UNITE member Howard Sharpe. Two years ago, when the Blacklist Support Group first talked about police collusion in blacklisting, people looked at us as if we were conspiracy theorists. It is now official TUC policy. The TUC motion calls for a full public inquiry into the blacklisting conspiracy and for police spying on trade unions to be covered by the Pitchford Inquiry.

Thursday – Undercover police spying on trade unionists was a central element of the Police and Democracy Conference to launch the new International Criminological Research Unit at the University of Liverpool. Academics from across the world attended the conference and agreed to place ‘Blacklisted’ book on University reading lists for students of criminology, sociology and employment relations.

Friday – On Teesside construction activists again blocked early morning traffic outside the Wilton Complex in dispute over the blacklisting of union members and the systematic undercutting of collective bargaining wage levels by contractors on the project.

Blacklist Support Group formally applied for ‘core participant’ status in the Pitchford public inquiry into undercover policing. The submission was sent by Imran Khan and Partners but is a culmination of many years work by lawyers, investigative journalists, researchers and activists. Special mention to the lawyers David Renton and Declan Owens who first exposed the police link to blacklisting during an employment tribunal back in 2012.

In the boardrooms of multinational construction companies, there was a hope that the blacklisting scandal had gone away. Think again. Corbyn / McDonnell, the Pitchford Inquiry, the impending High Court trial and ongoing industrial battles means that blacklisting will be dragged into centre stage of political media spotlight. The past 6 years has been the preparation. The next 2-3 years are going to be very interesting. We can’t wait.

PS: Composite Motion 16 passed at TUC Congress specifically “applauds the tremendous work done by unions and the Blacklist Support Group in campaigning against the blacklisting of workers for trade union activity”. BSG are honoured to be recognised by fellow trade unionists and would like to thank the literally thousands of people across the globe who have consistently supported our fight for justice.

Full text of motion here: https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/Congress2015GPCReport.pdf



For details of current industrial action news, please see the following:-

Tube Staff to Strike over Regrading Dispute [RMT]

Battling Bromley refuse workers win pay rise after strike threat [UNITE]

DVLA Saturday working allowance strikes suspended [PCS]

Dismissal of Chad Vickers (Blackpool North, Northern Rail) – further action [RMT]

Probation staff taking action short of strike [UNISON]

Legal & General staff vote for strike action to defend 1,700 Kingswood jobs [UNITE]

Norfolk Household Waste Sites Closures [GMB]

Dispute Looms At Lucite Darwen Plant [GMB]

Leeds printing plate workers stage 48-hour strike over ‘paltry’ pay offer [UNITE]