Unite delegate, EC member and construction worker Roy Bentham, who is also joint secretary of the Blacklist Support Group, shares his experience with blacklisting and the need to continue fighting in the comment piece below. During the Labour Party conference this week, he hails the crucial role the party has played in securing justice for blacklisted workers.
In 1995 myself and 600 others went on strike at the infamous Connahs Quay power station just over the border in North Wales. It was the first and only time I have ever been on strike officially.
I can say hand on heart I’ve never been on a worse construction site. We faced indiscriminate sackings, bullying and total hostility to health, safety and employment rights. As the elected carpenters’ steward, upon returning back to site and going back through that gate victorious, my card was marked — and marked literally for 14 years.
I was blacklisted by the company I worked for, Tarmac. Tarmac later became Carillion — you will have heard of them. That experience changed my life.
February next year is the 10 year anniversary of when we founded the Blacklist Support Group. Our shadow chancellor John McDonnell was one of those who convened our first meetings. Back then you’d struggle to find anyone who knew anything about the crimes of blacklisting and how it devastated working class lives. Not anymore.
With the support of Unite and the Labour movement, we have worked tirelessly for justice.The blacklisting of trade unionists has now been placed firmly in the spotlight.We have also opened the book on rogue undercover police units — or the spycops scandal to me and you.
We have lobbied, demonstrated and campaigned to prevent blacklisting companies from winning government procurement contracts and imposing bogus self-employment with little or no workers rights on sites.
My co-secretary Dave Smith wrote the book “Blacklisted” – it’s a masterpiece. So far we have won £75m in compensation through the courts for the victims of blacklisting. More cases are pending which will conclude next year. We’ve always maintained, truth is one thing, justice is another. Our ultimate aim is for the perpetrators of these crimes to face the stand.
I want to end by paying tribute to some fine and now dearly departed friends — Michael Abbott, Sam Gibson and Gary Doolan. All dedicated their lives to challenging the injustices of blacklisting. Winning this struggle is the very least we can do for the memory of them and those other fine comrades who are no longer with us. They are the giants of the movement we now follow.
And to that end, there can be no other way. In solidarity — or as we say in these parts, ‘You’ll never walk alone’.”