Solidarity Magazine » Victimisation Fri, 01 Mar 2013 19:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Blacklisting of trades unionists Tue, 19 Jul 2011 11:21:40 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Northampton grandfather Brian Higgins this week acheived a major breakthrough in his campaign against the illegal blacklisting of trade unionists. On Thurs 30th June 2011, Brian Higgins secre tary of Northampton branch of UCATT (the building workers union), led a delegation of trade unionists from the Blacklist Support Group to Brussels to hold private talks with László Andor, European Union Commissioner with responsibility for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion to discuss potential EU wide legislation to outlaw blacklisting. (Photo attached – see Editors Notes)

During the 45 minute meeting, Commissioner Andor was presented with documentary evidence in the form secret blacklist files kept about trade unionists in the UK construction industry. The files were compiled by the Consulting Association and provide damning evidence that major multi-national building firms systematically dismissed and victimised workers who raised concerns about health & safety issues or unpaid wages (see Editors Notes). The largest blacklist file in the country relates to Brian Higgins (49 pages)

The secret files contain appalling levels of personal intrusion with sensitive information including; names, addresses, national insurance number, work history, medical history, press-cuttings, union meetings attended, speeches made, political affiliations. Many entries on the blacklist files are supplied by senior Industrial Relations managers from major construction firms relating to when an individual had spoken to their site managers about safety breaches such as asbestos or poor toilet facilities. The information in the blacklist files was circulated amongst multi-national building firms and used to deny workers employment on major construction projects. For many blacklisted workers this resulted in repeated sackings and long-term unemployment merely because they had raised concerns about safety on building sites.

Ex-bricklayer, Brian Higgins said after the meeting:
“The Blacklist is an economic , social and political prison in which I have served a life sentence and others continue to be imprsoned. My wife and family also suffered because of the terrible pressure which resulted from us only having my wife’s wages to hold things together. But my message for those who caused this is, it was difficult , extremely so at times, however we did hold it together and stayed together in spite of you and your Blacklist. We refused to let you grind us down and I’m still fighting.”


Brian Higgins added “When Northampton Ucatt Branch initiated a campaign for an EU Law against industrial blacklisting to try to counter dreadful performances of Ucatt and Unite General Secretaries and lawyers after the discovery of the Consulting Association Blacklist and contacted Glenis Willmott MEP. They could never imagine their secretary would end up with other blacklisted trade unionists and the Blacklist Support Group, a law professor and Stephen Hughes MEP at a meeting with Lazlo Andor the EU Commissioner in Brussels and get his sympthy in return. The genuinely positive response from Commissioner Andor exceeded all our expectations – It is truly amazing.”

The construction companies identified as participating in the blacklisting operation include household names based and operating across Europe including: Skanska (Sweden), Bam (Netherlands), Vinci (France), Laing O’Rourke (Ireland), Sir Robert McAlpine, Balfour Beatty, Kier, Costain, Carillion (UK) to name but a few. (See Editors Notes)

Also attending the meeting was Professor Keith Ewing from Kings College London (a leading academic in international law and human rights issues) who presented possible legislative options open to the European Union highlighting the fact that many of the companies involved in the blacklist were European based. He also drew attention to the fact that blacklisting violates many provisions of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and that the EU had the authority and responsibility to respond to this major violation of health and safety standards.

The meeting was arranged by Stephen Hughes MEP and Glenis Willmott MEP (Labour’s Leader in Europe Parliament) who are taking up the issue in the European Parliament.
Stephen Hughes MEP said:

“Blacklisting is a genuine issue which affects all member states and I will work with colleagues to address this serious concern and apply parliamentary pressure to trigger action.
This meeting is the beginning, not the end, of a process. Once we have planted the seed with Commissioner Andors, we will follow up with action in the European Parliament’s Employment Committee and the full Parliament. It will take time but we don’t give up easily!”


The right to join a trade union and not be be victimised because of it is enshrined in Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights but lack of any specific EU wide legislation against blacklisting of individuals for safety reasons means that thousands of workers have suffered appalling financial and family hardship because of the covert actions of multi-national building firms.


Brian Higgins added:


“We have been victimised by these firms just because we have stood up for safety issues; a cabin to dry wet clothes, asbestos, holiday pay. For many of us this conspiracy has meant years on the dole and family strains. But we are not just fighting for ourselves. This evil practice is almost certainly taking place in other industries and across Europe. I refuse to stop campaigning for the trade union rights on safety, working conditions and wages the blacklist is meant to prevent us doing. Now we’re taking the fight to Europe on behalf of workers here and the likes of Poland, Spain, Ireland and Greece. In fact anywhere blacklisting is going on.”

Notes to Editors:
1. For individual interviews with the delegation about the talks with EU Commissioner Andor & their personal experience of blacklisting contact

2. Attached photo shows (Left to Right): Professor Keith Ewing, Brian Higgins, Stephen Hughes MEP, EU Commissioner László Andor, Steve Acheson

3. The blacklisting of trade unionists in the construction industry was only exposed after an investigation by the Information Commissioners Office (UK data-protection watchdog) in 2009. The companies identified by the Information Commissioners Office as using The Consulting Association secret blacklisting are all household names including:
Amec, Amey, B Sunley & Sons, Balfour Beatty, Balfour Kilpatrick, Ballast Wiltshire, Bam Construction (HBC Construction), Bam Nuttall (Edmund Nutall Ltd), C B & I, Cleveland Bridge UK Ltd, Costain UK Ltd, Crown House Technologies, Carillion, Tarmac Construction, Diamond M & E Services, Dudley Bower & Co Ltd, Emcor (Drake & Scull), Emcor Rail, G Wimpey Ltd, Haden Young, Kier Ltd, John Mowlem Ltd, Laing O’Rourke, Lovell Construction (UK) Ltd, Miller Construction Limited, Morgan Ashurst, Morgan Est, Morrison Construction Group, N G Bailey, Shepherd Engineering Services, Sias Building Services, Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, Skanska (Kaverna / Trafalgar House Plc), SPIE (Matthew Hall), Taylor Woodrow Construction Ltd, Turriff Construction Ltd, Tysons Contractors, Walter Llewellyn & Sons Ltd, Whessoe Oil & Gas, Willmott Dixon, Vinci PLC (Norwest Holst Group)

4. Blacklist Support Group was set-up to act as a support network on behalf of the 3216 individuals on the Consulting Association database following a meeting held at the House of Commons in June 2009 organised by John McDonnell MP. The Blacklist Support Group has led the campiagn against blacklisting by organsing fringe meetings at union conferences, entered submissions to proposed legislation, organising direct action, produced campaign video’s and is currently involved with a variety of legal challenges.


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Construction company found guilty of blacklisting prominent trade unionist Mon, 15 Nov 2010 16:32:41 +0000 Continue reading ]]> A major construction contractor has been found guilty by an employment tribunal of blacklisting a prominent trade unionist.

On 10 November, at Ashford Employment Tribunal, an employment judge ruled that Unite member, Mr Phil Willis, had been unlawfully refused employment by CB&I because he is a member of a trade union, a prominent activist and was blacklisted because of this. He was awarded £18,375 in damages.

On 6 March 2009, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) raided the office of an organisation known as The Consulting Association (TCA) and found a list of over 3,000 workers in the construction industry. It was discovered that a practice was operating whereby up to 40 firms in the industry were buying information on workers and blacklisting trade unionists.

Mr Willis is a steel erector. He has been a member of Unite since 1968. In 2007 CB&I were involved in a major engineering and construction project at the Isle of Grain. Mr Willis submitted an application to CB&I for work as a steel erector on the Isle of Grain project. Although his application was acknowledged, he was not contacted again. CB&I were subscribers to TCA and used the services of TCA extensively. Mr Willis obtained a copy of his intelligence file held by TCA which contained information about his trade union activity.

Following the raid by the ICO in March 2009, the government announced it would introduce legislation to outlaw blacklisting which became law in April 2010. Unite had consistently argued that the blacklisting of construction workers was taking place. Mr Willis brought his claim under different legislation (section 137 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations.(Consolidation) Act 1992) as there was no specific legislation outlawing blacklisting at the time of his claim.

Tom Hardacre, Unite’s national officer for construction, said: “It is the first successful case against a major construction company, but it will not be the last. The union is currently providing legal support to a number of workers who believe they have been blacklisted. Too many construction workers have suffered victimisation at the hands of unscrupulous employers. Unite intends to use the full force of the law to hold firms to account for systematically ruining people’s livelihoods just because a few brave men were prepared to stand up for the rights of their fellow work colleagues.”

Les Bayliss, Unite assistant general secretary, said: “This is a significant milestone but we believe the law should go further. Unite will be campaigning to strengthen the law on blacklisting to ensure employers do not even contemplate blacklisting trade union members.”

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Victory for Yunus Bakhsh as health trust is bashed Tue, 03 Aug 2010 17:17:44 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Yunus Bakhsh

by Yuri Prasad


Yunus Bakhsh, a highly respected trade unionist from Newcastle, has won a four-year battle to clear his name after a landmark Employment Tribunal victory.

Bosses at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust sacked the mental health nurse in 2008, claiming he had bullied and intimidated other workers.

But in a scathing judgement the tribunal last week found that the Trust had unfairly dismissed Yunus for his trade union activities.

The panel also ruled that the Trust, which is one of the biggest mental health employers in Europe, had discriminated against Yunus after he started suffering with depression and became too ill to attend disciplinary hearings against him.

The victory marks a crucial turning point for Yunus, who has been forced to mount a long-running legal campaign against his former employer and the leaders of his own Unison union who refused to defend him.

In 2006, bosses suspended Yunus—despite his more than two decades of unblemished service—after receiving an “anonymous” letter of complaint against him.

Senior managers then conducted what they described as an “impartial investigation” into allegations that he had bullied other members of staff.

But the tribunal did not believe the bosses’ version of events.

Instead it concluded that the Trust had used the complaint to rid bosses of a highly effective trade unionist who had long been a thorn in their side.

The judgement mercilessly attacks evidence that Trust directors and senior managers submitted to them.

Elizabeth Latham, the Trust’s head of human resources, played a crucial role in Yunus’s sacking. She draws particular criticism. The panel dismiss her statements as “not credible”.

In its judgement the Tribunal argues that Latham was part of a well-laid plan to get rid of Yunus, saying, “The hand of the Human Resources Department which acted unlawfully in suspending the claimant… extends throughout the whole of the process… all the way to the conclusion of the appeal hearing…”

The panel was “not impressed” by fellow director, Russell Patton, either, saying he had acted in an “arrogant and hostile fashion” in his dealings with Yunus. They described his statements as “unreliable and at times incredible”.


Evidence given by director Kate Simpson is rejected as “hesitant and unconvincing”.

The Tribunal describes the methods used by Claire Hesketh, the manager responsible for the inquiry into Yunus, as “designed to find evidence against the claimant rather than conduct an open minded impartial investigation”.

While the Tribunal has harsh words for Trust bosses, it describes Yunus as a “straight forward and credible” witness, “who made no secret of his passion for and commitment to his trade union role nor of his political beliefs”.

The panel praises Yunus’s witnesses describing them as “convincing”, “credible” and “illuminating”.

Staff nurse Michael Paccitti defended Yunus against bosses’ claims that he was exaggerating his deteriorating mental health in a bid to string out his appeal against being sacked.

The panel reports that Michael, “struck the Tribunal as a caring and honest man who obviously tried to give truthful evidence without exaggeration: The Tribunal found itself able to accept evidence from this witness without question.”

Evidence also points to the real reasons why Yunus was victimised—he was enemy of both Trust bosses and the right wing leadership of his own union.

Before his suspension, Yunus revealed to the press that Trust bosses awarded themselves whopping pay increases while cutting the patient food budget.

The Tribunal looked at the timing of the “anonymous” complaint, and the Trust’s swift response to it. It notes that, “Had Elizabeth Latham been expecting to receive the letter [of complaint], she could hardly have acted with a greater sense of urgency”.

Yunus was also set to challenge for the leadership of a new Unison union branch due to be created after several hospital trusts merged. If, as was expected, Yunus won, he would be at the head of one of the biggest branches in the country.

National and regional leaders of Unison saw in the bosses’ attack an opportunity to get rid of a popular and articulate critic. Instead of fighting for their activist, they joined the assault.

Unison leaders told Yunus he had no chance of winning his case at a tribunal. They refused to fund the challenge or authorise the strike ballot his members were demanding to defend him.

They then used essentially the same evidence as the Trust to suspend him from office and mount their own “investigation”.

Yunus was expelled from Unison in 2008, with union leaders knowing that vital paperwork that could clear him of their charges was locked in an office that he was barred from entering.

Unison leaders maintained their assault even after it was revealed that some of those who had accused Yunus of bullying had links to fascists.

Noting the possibility of collusion between management and the union leaders, the judgement notes, “The Tribunal is bound to wonder whether she [Elizabeth Latham] found in Elizabeth Twist [Unison’s former head of health in the northern region] an ally and a shared sense of purpose”.

Despite finding in Yunus’s favour on crucial issues of trade union activity and disability, the Tribunal did not accept that the Trust had broken race discrimination law when taking disciplinary action against him.

Yunus describes the last four years as a “living hell” that he could survive only because of huge support he has received from rank and file trade unionists.


He is jubilant at the Tribunal’s clear decision against his former employer, but remains livid with the leaders of his own union.

I want my job back and to be back in my union,” he told Socialist Worker.

Unison should commission an independent inquiry into the way I was forced out of the union, and those responsible should face charges.

This Tribunal decision is a massive victory for me. But it is also a victory for everyone who faces discrimination because of a mental health disability, such as depression.

It is a victory for every trade unionist who stands up to bullying bosses and refuses to be cowed.

And it is a message to those in the leadership of our unions—we expect them to fight to defend activists with all their might, not to witch-hunt them because of their political beliefs.”

Download the Full judgement [6.1mb PDF]

Demand Unison commission an independent inquiry into the witch-hunt against Yunus. Email Unison general secretary Dave Prentis at

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Re Proposed Dismissal of elected Trade Union Facilitator by Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust. Thu, 10 Dec 2009 12:00:52 +0000 Continue reading ]]> UNISON Press Release

Zena Dodgson, elected Trade Union Facilitator at Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust lodged an appeal against her dismissal on grounds of redundancy by the Trust.

Zena was represented by her Union, UNISON, at the appeal which was heard on 8th December by a panel comprising Trust Board members and an external HR advisor.

The panel’s decision was conveyed to Zena and her representative this afternoon, 9th December.

UNISON are very pleased that the panel has agreed with our assertion that Zena’s elected role of Trade Union Facilitator is a secondment, and not her substantive post as asserted by the Trust, and therefore Zena cannot be made redundant from it; the panel have therefore upheld that part of the appeal.

UNISON has asked for clarification from the Trust regarding Zena’s proposed dismissal date of 31st December 2009, and other aspects of the judgement. We hope to receive this very quickly and will pass on this information when we have it.

UNISON would like to thank everyone who has written to the Trust and/or sent Zena messages of support; this is much appreciated.


Anna Berry

UNISON Regional Organiser, Surrey Team.

9th December 2009

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Workers' unity secures Linamar convenor's job Wed, 10 Jun 2009 15:05:27 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Unite convenor Rob Williams has been reinstated to his post at the Swansea plant of car components maker Linamar, the company and the union announced today (Wednesday).

The decision reverses last month’s dismissal of Mr Williams by the company and means that the strike planned to secure his reinstatement, due to start tomorrow, has been called off.  Unite and Linamar will now work together to ensure the plant’s future success.

Unite assistant general secretary, Len McCluskey, who led talks with management to secure Rob Williams’ reinstatement, said today: “We are delighted at this outcome, which represents a victory for the solidarity of the workforce at Linamar.  It is also a tribute to the wider support for Rob expressed by the labour movement throughout Wales in particular.

“I hope that employers throughout the country will take note that Unite will always be prepared to stand behind its elected representatives and will not accept attacks of this kind against union organisation.

“Now this dispute is behind us, we are looking forward to working constructively with the company to help secure the future of the Swansea plant in the very difficult worldwide economic environment.”

From the UNITE website

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Overwhelming vote for strike to reinstate Rob Williams Thu, 28 May 2009 17:00:20 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Linamar workers in Swansea have voted for an all out strike in support of their sacked convenor Rob Williams

The ‘yes’ vote was 139 and the ‘no’ vote was 19 with a turn out of 88%.

This is a marvellous vote in the teeth of mass intimidation by the linamar management who have threatened the workers with the sack in the past if they took strike action to get rob his job back.

They are saying clearly in this vote that they will decide who they want as their convenor and not management.

The vote by secret ballot under the onerous anti-union laws and in the face of an unprecedented recession in the car industry is a real indication that the workers know that what is at stake is not just Rob’s job but their very future, will they be able to have proper trade union representation or will they be forced to work under the dictates of the bosses with no rights to speak of.

The shop stewards committee is meeting tonight to decide the next step. They will have to give the bosses a formal seven days notice of strike action  and it looks like the workers are saying that they are prepared to come out on indefinite strike to get rob back in the factory as their elected convenor and shop steward.

PS Rob will be speaking at the NSSN conference on 27 june in london Rob is the vice-Chair of the NSSN

Dave Chapple,

On behalf of the NSSN

]]> 0 Reinstate Rob Williams Thu, 07 May 2009 14:00:01 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Rob Williams, trade union Convenor of Linamar Swansea and vice chair of the NSSN, was sacked by the Linamar management last week, and then temporarily re-instated following militant action by the Linamar workforce.

Disgracefully, however, Rob yesterday had his sacking confirmed. Negotiations between Linamar management and Tony Woodley took place all day in London, but Linamar did not shift. Meanwhile at the Swansea plant Linamar revealed their brutality. Massive intimidation of the workforce took place – including foremen going around the shop floor threatening workers with the sack if they dared walk out in support of Rob. The bosses even went to the ludicrous lengths of removing the door from Rob’s trade union office.

This brutal action by Linamar is an attempt to return to the nineteenth century. What Linamar do not realise, however, is that all hell is going to break loose when workers, both in the Swansea and the wider labour movement, hear how Rob and his members have been treated.

The official reason for his sacking was “irretrievable breakdown of trust” – one of the most blatant excuses to behead a trade union organisation ever used in any factory. Rob’s record in standing up for his members, both inside and outside the factory, is second to none. However, what is at stake here is not the fate of one individual but the right for workers to be represented by the best militant fighters.

This sacking has to be totally opposed. The union has promised rapid action to organise a ballot for an official strike, but the anti-trade union laws mean this could still take up to a month between the ballot and the strike action actually taking place. That time, which must be kept a short as possible, needs to be used to pull out all the stops in support of Rob.

Messages of support and donations should flood in.

If Linamar are allowed to get away with this, no convenor or shop steward, either in the already weakened car industry or in the wider trade union movement is safe. Allow the employers to inflict a defeat here and no trade unionist, shop steward, let alone a convenor, will be able to put their head above the parapet without the bosses seeking to cut it off.

Workers are facing the worst economic crisis since the 1930s. Big business is doing their utmost to make sure that it is the working class that pays for the crisis. Militant, fighting trade unionism – symbolised by Rob Williams and the union organisation in Linamar – must not only be preserved but strengthened in order to prepare the working class for the capitalist offensive that is under way in Britain and worldwide.

Continue to phone protests to:

Head of Swansea Linamar Brian Wade 01792 656339
Personnel Manager 01792 656238

Messages of protest to
Messages of support to Rob Williams:

From the National Shop Stewards Network

]]> 1 Speak out and you could be blacklisted Fri, 06 Mar 2009 20:57:10 +0000 Continue reading ]]> It’s time to impose a proper punitive system on employers who victimise workers for voicing concerns Gregor Gall from Comment is free

For people who care about the right of workers to be able to safely voice their legitimate concerns about the behaviour of their employers, today’s exposure by the Guardian of the blacklisting of workers in the construction and building industry will be very worrying.

The revelation shows that employers have been doing what they always denied – blacklisting those whom they deemed to be “troublemakers” for standing up for workers’ rights on a whole series of work issues.

And, it provides confirmation of what sacked workers and construction industry unions have suspected for a very long time. Indeed, in cases taken to prove unfair dismissal in the industry for union activities, such as speaking up about health and safety, the operation of blacklisting was already exposed on a case-by-case basis. One recent example concerns an electrician in Manchester on a PFI project .

But the victimisation in the construction and building industry is but the tip of the iceberg. Last month, the employers’ federation for the offshore oil and gas industry in Britain, came to an agreement with unions to end the use of blacklisting in the sector. In so doing, it admitted to what the oil workers’ unions had long argued – that the “Not Required Back” system was used to victimise workers who spoke out on behalf of themselves and others, and particularly over health and safety issues. Although the employers dispute the union’s view on how widespread the practice was, they’ve acknowledged that it has been going since the inception of the offshore industry in the 1970s. Indeed, it was a practice initiated by American companies brought over to get the industry started.

Just as worryingly, there has been a rising spate of victimisation of union activists in the public sector, where employers have traditionally been regarded as more fair-minded and equitable than private sector employers. From the case of the mental health nurse and Unison activist, Karen Reissman, to that of local government worker and Unison branch secretary, Nigel Behan, who has opposed outsourcing to the private sector at Somerset county council, to that of Adrian Swain, NUT rep at a London school, there is evidence that the roll call seems to be growing in public services.

The common denominator here seems to be union reps and members who are effective in voicing concerns and criticisms of the employers implementing government modernisation policies. Otherwise why try to silence them if they are ineffective? These are no doubt the public-sector workers that Tony Blair, when PM, claimed had given him scars on his back for attempting to modernise the public sector.

But, there are still other recent cases of victimisation in the private sector. The GMB shop steward at Thames Water, who criticised her employer over outsourcing, was told by her chief executive that she would be “exited”:

You obviously do not live the Thames Water values and your attitude is disrespectful. If you have no confidence in my leadership you should leave the organisation as soon as possible. Mike Tempest please interview this lady on Monday without fail and discuss an exit plan.

Meanwhile, an RMT activist was victimised upon returning to work after serving as a lay union officer.

My research for a paper to be presented at an academic conference in Australia later this year shows that not only have there been a significant number of alleged victimisations, where there is hard supportive evidence or actual victimisation (as determined by employment tribunals), but also this has been increasing in the last five years. So, from reports in the public domain, I have identified over 100 cases in the public sector and around 80 in the private sector (discounting those in the building and construction industry).

Surely it’s time to impose a proper punitive system on employers who victimise such workers? At the moment, victimisation can be hard to prove as the information required to do so is kept secret from the aggrieved worker, and less than 1% of employers who have unfair dismissal cases proven against them re-employ the said worker. Instead, they pay them off and – where this is in the public sector – they do so with public money.

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