Met Police admits blacklisting involvement

23 March 2018 | By Neil Gerrard

Image: Matt Brown/Flickr

Officers in the Metropolitan Police played a role in the blacklisting of construction workers, Scotland Yard has admitted, although no further action will be taken until a full inquiry has concluded.

The force said an investigation had “proven” that information was passed by police to a network involved in blacklisting certain individuals with trade union links, preventing them from working on construction sites.

The development was hailed as a “major breakthrough” by the Unite union, which has campaigned on behalf of blacklisted workers.

The Metropolitan Police’s admission follows a six-year battle by construction workers who claim they were unfairly barred from jobs to find out whether the police were involved in the scandal.

In a letter to the workers’ lawyers, seen by the BBC, deputy assistant commissioner Richard Martin said that “on the balance of probabilities” the allegation that information was provided was “proven”.

However, a statement from the Metropolitan Police this morning said there was no evidence at this stage that the sharing of information had been “systematic” and that allegations of police involvement – which relates specifically to the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) and Special Branch – would be explored more fully during an Undercover Policing Public Inquiry (UCPI).

“The police have finally been forced to admit what we already knew, that they were knowingly and actively involved in the blacklisting of construction workers. It is disgraceful that they have chosen to sit on this admission of guilt for so long.”

Gail Cartmail, assistant general secretary, Unite

The force said: “Allegations about police involvement with the ‘Blacklist’ will be fully explored during the Undercover Policing Public Inquiry, which will hear detailed evidence regarding this subject. At this stage the MPS will await the conclusions of the UCPI before considering what steps should be taken next.

“In November 2012 the original complaint was received by the MPS. An investigation into the allegations was carried out by Operation Herne, the team investigating allegations of crime and misconduct by the SDS overseen by chief constable Mick Creedon.

“That investigation concluded that the MPS had provided information to the ‘Blacklist’, but there was no evidence this had been done by members of the SDS and the sharing of information did not appear to be systematic. The investigation did not consider the conduct of other law enforcement bodies.

“The retrospective application of the Data Protection Act determined that, had the Act been applicable at the time, certain conduct would have constituted the improper sharing of information.

“At this stage the MPS has notified complainants that, until the UCPI has assessed all the evidence, no further action will be taken.”

The first indications of the blacklisting scandal emerged in 2009 after the Information Commissioner’s Office raided a body called the Consulting Organisation, which uncovered a list of more than 3,000 workers with trade union links.

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Eight firms that used the list were sued by the workers. They were Carillion, Balfour Beatty, Costain, Kier, Laing O'Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci.

The eight firms apologised and it is thought that more than 700 workers shared £75m in compensation.

In 2016, Unite reached a settlement with the firms that resulted in 256 workers sharing more than £10m in compensation.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail, said: “This is a major breakthrough – the police have finally been forced to admit what we already knew, that they were knowingly and actively involved in the blacklisting of construction workers.

“It is disgraceful that they have chosen to sit on this admission of guilt for so long.

“This admission is yet another reason why we need a full public inquiry into blacklisting.

“It is also why it is absolutely essential that the inquiry into undercover policing led by Judge Mittings is entirely transparent.

“That inquiry’s primary focus must be about exposing the abuses that undercover police officers were responsible for, rather than protecting the identities of the police officers involved.”

Justin Bowden, national secretary for the GMB union, said: “The secret blacklisting of 3,213 construction workers and environmentalists was the greatest employment scandal in 50 years. 

“When in 2013 GMB launched the first high court claims on behalf of those blacklisted there were many in the establishment who said we were paranoid conspiracy theorists.

“Admission by the police that they were directly and deeply involved in denying ordinary working people – who in many cases had done little more than raise health and safety concerns – from work and the chance to support themselves and their families is a constitutional crisis that can only be properly addressed by a full, independent public enquiry as GMB has long maintained. 

“This admission too raises some serious questions regarding other connected cases.”

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