Blacklisted: UK workers find they are banned from job market

After years of unsuccessful attempts to find jobs, thousands of UK construction workers have found out why. Skilled engineers have discovered their names were on an “employment blacklist” - an illegal document which shattered their lives.

­In 2004, former union organiser Steve Hedley was mysteriously sacked, and for the next four years, he wondered why he could not get another full-time job. Then, a friend told him about a blacklist, held by a private company and accessed by some of the UK’s biggest construction firms. Sure enough, he uncovered a 16-page file on himself. The blacklisting not only wrecked his working life, but it also caused his marriage to break down.

“It goes into detail about how I was sacked, what my political activities were, what my trade union activities were, what part I was playing in the union. The employers were distributing this among themselves, and with this blacklisting organisation, barred not only me but other people from employment,” Hedley told RT.

Much of the information in Hedley’s file is clipped from left-wing newspapers and union magazines. But some comes from a different source altogether – the police.

“I was in there, named as a participant on an anti-fascist demonstration. This information hasn’t come from the employers. It could only have come from the police. We don’t agree with employers keeping blacklists, it’s an illegal thing. But it opens up a whole new dimension when the state security forces are getting involved in this – it almost smacks of a police state,” says Hedley.

Working on a building site is one of the most dangerous jobs in the UK. Last year alone, there were 50 deaths in the construction industry. Many of the banned workers say the reason they are on the blacklist is because they blew the whistle on poor health and safety standards – shortcuts they say construction companies make to increase profits.

“It’s not something the beat bobby just happens to have found out and passed on this information, because why would they even know something like the Consulting Association even existed. I believe it’s at the most senior levels, taking place, colluding with the directors of multinational companies against people they don’t like because of our trade union activities, because we’ve raised concerns about unpaid wages, and health and safety and because they didn’t like our politics,” says Dave Smith from the Blacklist Support Group.

The company that held Hedley’s file has now been closed down – but he and his colleagues believe there are more blacklists that have not yet been uncovered. They say they will fight until they know the extent of state security involvement in their persecution.