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President: Fighting the evil of Blacklisting

22 August 2013

TSSA president Mick Carney looks at two fights for justice – against vicious employers and also for the rights of neurodiverse workers

Blacklisting has been in the news a lot recently. These secret lists prevent decent hard working citizens from gaining worthwhile employment for no better reasons than the fact that they’ve been active in a trade union. But blacklisting is by no means a new phenomenon. Back in 1972 a group of men who became known as the Shrewsbury 24 were arrested for nothing more than fighting for better wages and safety on notoriously unsafe building sites. Six were jailed, including amongst their number Ricky Tomlinson – at the time a builder, but now better-known for his acting. The fight to clear their name goes on.

In 2009 the Information Commissioners Office raided the premises of a shadowy organisation called the Consulting Association. Here they discovered a blacklist of construction workers with over 3,200 names on it. The list had been accessed by over 40 construction firms including McAlpine and Carillion. The existence of a blacklist had long been suspected but this was the first concrete proof. Just like the Shrewsbury 24 so many years ago, decent family men and women were being denied work for nothing more than their lawful trade union activities.

In May this year blacklisted construction worker George Tapp was leafleting outside Manchester City’s Eastlands stadium when a car deliberately accelerated into him breaking both his legs and causing serious injuries to several others. George is 64 years old and was doing nothing more than peacefully campaigning for workplace fairness.

Back in December last year TSSA launched its Neurodiversity project at the House of Commons. Our work was guided by the research we commissioned from Herriot Watt University. Interviews were conducted with TSSA members who had experience of neurodiverse issues. These can include dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, Asperger’s syndrome and autism. The results were surprising and the stories that came from this touching. It is clear that these issues were holding a significant number of our members back in the workplace, denying them promotion. The symptoms can often go unnoticed until adult life. I myself have two nieces who went right through the education system until college level without having their dyslexia diagnosed.

TSSA launched a campaign to recruit ‘Neurodiversity Champions’, members trained up to do a basic screening on those who might possibly have an issue. So far we have over 40 such screeners in various workplaces – to find out more email

Both of these seemingly unrelated issues come down to one thing: social justice. It is something the unions are constantly striving for, whilst this unelected government is imposing policies like the bedroom tax and universal credit which no one was ever asked to vote for. They are making those with next to nothing pay for the folly of the rich, and yet we are told by the Tory press it is ‘union barons’ who wish to bring the country to its knees. A campaigning union such as ours is, and has always been, a force for good.

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