GMB takes Metropolitan Police to ICO over blacklisting

By agency reporter
June 29, 2018

GMB, the union for construction workers, has referred the Metropolitan Police to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) after the force failed to answer a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

On 9 April 2018, GMB filed a request for the Met Police’s full internal investigation report, all emails relating to the report and details of overt and covert meetings between officers and members of blacklisting organisations.

The statutory deadline for Scotland Yard to respond passed at the end of May and despite a follow up letter, GMB has received no response leaving the union no option but to refer the Met to the ICO.

In a letter in March, Deputy Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Richard Martin, admitted: “Police, including Special Branches, supplied information that appeared on the Blacklist, funded by the country's major construction firms.

“The report concludes that, on the balance of probabilities, the allegation that the police or Special Branches supplied information is 'proven'.  

“Material revealed a potentially improper flow of information from Special Branch to external organisations, which ultimately appeared on the blacklist." 

Blacklisting came to light in 2009 when the ICO seized a database from an organisation called The Consulting Association with details of 3,213 construction workers and environmental activists, used by 44 companies (including  household names like Carillion, Balfour Beatty, Costain, Kier, Laing O'Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci) to vet new recruits and keep out of employment trade union and health and safety activists.

GMB brought the first blacklisting cases in the High Court in November 2013 and organised the ‘Crocodile Tears’ protests at locations across the UK to shame 63 construction industry managers named as blacklisters, who have still to come clean and apologise for their actions.

In 2016, on behalf of the 44 companies involved, eight firms (Carillion, Balfour Beatty, Costain, Kier, Laing O'Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci) paid total compensation to 771 claimants of blacklisting totalling £75m, including legal costs on both sides estimated at £25m.

Justin Bowden, GMB National Secretary, said: “It is shameful that the Metropolitan Police are obstructing GMB’s quest for the truth. 

“It is bad enough the state spied on its own citizens engaged in lawful activities, but to seek to block those affected from a chance of closure compounds the crime against those they targeted. 

“Those spied on have a right to know who, what, where, when and why information was shared between the police, and on whose orders it was carried out. 

“Scotland Yard has a duty to hand over this information.

“GMB was the first union to lodge High Court claims for those blacklisted and the first to call for a Public Inquiry, something that is still required."

* GMB union https://www.gmb.org.uk/

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