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The blacklisting scandal may turn out even worse than the phone-hacking scandal

Blacklist support groupThe revelation from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) that a Scotland Yard inquiry into police collusion has found that it is “likely that all special branches were involved in providing information” that deprived workers of employment is dynamite. It is known that over 3,200 workers during the period 1993-2009 were blacklisted by up to 44 construction companies – many of them household names like Balfour Beatty, McAlpine, Carillion, and Costain – and were consequently kept out of work sometimes for decades.

Phone-hacking is a very serious intrusion into privacy and breach of human rights, but it does not compare with being deprived of your job for years or even decades on end. It is already known from statements made from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) last year to the parliamentary Scottish Grand Committee that some of the information revealed on files on blacklisted workers “could only have come from the police or security service sources”. The firm belief of the IPCC, based on discussions with the Metropolitan Police, that all special branches were engaged in these illegal and highly damaging activities exposes, if it is confirmed, a monumental scandal.

This is however for the moment disputed by a senior investigating officer recently appointed to Operation Herne, the inquiry currently being undertaken into the activities of undercover police officers. He says he has seen “no conclusive evidence” that Scotland Yard exchanged information with the blacklisting companies. This is not however a very compelling denial of their involvement, especially since the Blacklist Support Group have now had it confirmed that a secret meeting took place in November 2008 between the Consulting Association which ran the blacklist and officers from the police national extremism tactical co-ordination unit which runs undercover policing.

Significantly, this new and damning information comes from freedom of information(FOI) requests to the ICO which replied that they were holding notes from this meeting, which invites the question why they didn’t reveal this information years before, indeed in 2009, rather than wait to have it extracted from them by the FOI procedure. It also raises the further question as to why the ICO has so far declined to inform all the 3,213 workers involved that they were subject to blacklisting since the great majority are probably still unaware about this.

The 44 construction companies now face a High Court battle about their alleged involvement in blacklisting, and significantly 8 of them have now decided to compensate some of these 3,213 workers which might seem to suggest they believe the evidence being revealed is now sufficient to prove their involvement in blacklisting. If that is so, certain conclusions follow. All the 3,213 workers involved should now be informed, and the metric for the compensation should be the number of years they were deprived of work times their annual wage during those years, plus a sizeable penal award for the extreme wrongdoing done them. And those responsible for the blacklisting should be prosecuted, and if found guilty, sent to prison for a significant term.

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