Content tagged with "NETCU"

Spycop Boss Sues Blacklisted Workers

Gordon Mills, one of the spycops chiefs, is suing workers who spycops helped to illegally blacklist.

The extraordinary move follows a letter from John McDonnell MP to Home Secretary Theresa May concerning Mills giving a Powerpoint presentation to a meeting of corporate bosses and an illegal blacklisting firm.

BLACKLISTING

The Consulting Association ran an illegal blacklist of over 3,000 construction workers until it was raided and closed by the Information Commissioners Office in 2009. It helped firms to filter out job applicants who had a history of being ‘trouble makers’ wanting proper health and safety equipment, union membership, or other things that are their protected rights.

Most of the big name construction firms illegally used the list – Skanska & McAlpine were invoiced for around 14,000 vetting checks in the blacklist’s final year 2008-09 when they were both building Olympic venues – but no firm has yet faced any charges or censure apart from a solitary letter telling them not to do it again.

In 2012 it was realised that some of the information on the files must have come from the police or MI5. The following year the Independent Police Complaints Commission said it seemed every constabulary’s Special Branch had supplied the blacklist with information.

Some of this information bore no relevance to the job, and instead concerned the person’s political opinions or friendships. Around 200 environmental activists had their details given to the Consulting Associationj by police. Another person, a teacher by trade, was on the list for having been seen by police at an anti-racist demonstration.

This is not police officers upholding the law, it is police officers breaking the law to uphold something they presumably feel is more important; upholding corporate power.

NETCU

After the second British political secret police unit, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, was established in 1999, a sister unit was devised in 2004 to support companies that were the subject of protests. The National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU) was born.

NETCU was established during the drafting of the 2005 amendment to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act which made it illegal to ‘interfere with the contractual relations of an animal research organisation’ or to ‘intimidate’ employees of an animal research organisation. Run from Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, NETCU’s remit was defined as ‘prevention’ and it was tasked with helping companies such as Huntingdon Life Sciences frustrate campaigns waged against them by animal rights activists.

NETCU didn’t just advise corporations about threats to their profits from campaigns, it took a proactive political role in discrediting and undermining those campaigns. Its website linked to the pro-vivisection Research Defence Society, and the unit issued several press releases boasting of activists being prevented from doing street collections.

NETCU’s rapid ‘mission-creep’ saw it move to encompass environmental and climate activists.

SUPPORTING CORPORATIONS IN COURT

After the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 came into force, enterprising lawyer Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden realised that, as well as its intended purpose of protecting vulnerable women from dangerous ex-partners, it could also be used to defend multinational corporations from protest. A large number of injunctions were served against various campaigns, and Lawson-Cruttenden was behind most of them. He developed strong relationships with police officers.

Regfarding the campaign against arms manufacturers EDO and Caterpillar, the Guardian reported that in 2005,

‘Private emails show that Inspector Nic Clay and Jim Sheldrake of NETCU gave Lawson-Cruttenden the names and contact details of officers at two other police forces as he was “keen” to obtain statements about the activities of the campaigners at a third firm.’

On that occasion, the arms firm lost and the judge severely criticised Lawson-Cruttenden for ignoring a court order against receiving confidential police documents. By the time of the Guardian report in 2009 the head of NETCU, Superintendent Stephen Pearl, who had testified in court for many of Lawson-Cruttenden’s corporate clients seeking injunctions, denied that NETCU were involved in any way.

BLACKLISTERS FIGHT BACK

John McDonnell MP has supported the blacklisted workers’ campaign for justice from the start – he hosted the inaugural meeting of the Blacklist Support Group. His prominence meant that he was the chosen recipient for a document leaked in 2014.

It was two handwritten pages from the man who ran the Consulting Association blacklist, Ian Kerr. It documented a meeting at the Bear Hotel, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, attended by Kerr, directors of construction firms using the blacklist and DCI Gordon Mills of NETCU (The Canary has published the original notes). At the meeting, Mills delivered a talk complete with Powerpoint presentation. The police have not released the contents of the presentation.

McDonnell wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May demanding publication of all relevant NETCU files, and an independent inquiry into blacklisting

‘DCI Mills was head of Police Liaison at NETCU and it is alleged that his role was to provide information from the police to companies. NETCU was subsequently subsumed into the National Domestic Extremism Unit of the Metropolitan Police, but despite numerous requests under the Freedom of Information Act for documents relating to NETCU’s activities, the response has been that no documents relating to the meeting of DCI Mills with the association exist.

It appears odd that no report of such an important meeting was written and that no evidence of the meeting is now held by the Metropolitan Police.’

Blacklist Support Group secretary Dave Smith, whose Consulting Association file was 36 pages long, and who recently co-authored the Blacklisted book, added

‘We have been saying for five-and-a half years that the state was involved in blacklisting and we have been told time and time again that is not true and been accused of being paranoid. It is a cover-up. We have a name of a senior police officer, not a rogue constable, who was meeting with them. There must be documentation held by the police and correspondence between the police and the association.’

Many blacklisted workers, and the Blacklisted Support Group itself, are among the 200 people designated core participants at the Undercover Policing Inquiry.

SUING THE PROTESTERS

So it comes as something of a surprise that Mills has, like his NETCU colleague Superintendent Pearl before him, chosen to deny everything. He told the Evening Standard

‘This attack on my integrity by John McDonnell has blighted my life, leaving me unable to move job and fearful for the safety of my family. In the past year I have been called a blacklister, a spy cop, a colluder and an undercover operative — all of which are untrue.’

That’s a bold stance for someone who was one of the officers who ran a spycop unit. The fear for his family is also a somewhat overblown. In five years since the spycops scandal hit the headlines we have learned the names and locations of many officers. Nothing untoward has happened to any of them.

Mills says the ‘highly damaging and serious allegation’ was ‘simply not true,’ adding that he had not even heard of the Consulting Association and its blacklist until he read about it in a newspaper in 2014. He singled McDonnell out for criticism

‘Mr McDonnell has never asked me for my account. I was named with what appears to be no consideration to my personal safety or the safety of my family against an extremist backlash…

With power comes responsibility. Mr McDonnell should think about the horrendous impact this has had on me and my family and apologise for initiating this campaign on an ex-police officer who was simply doing his job.’

A spokesperson for McDonnell replied that he

‘was well within his right to raise with the Home Secretary the matter of a serving police officer meeting an organisation that was involved in the illegal blacklisting of trade unionists, while this officer was working for a unit that kept union activists under surveillance’.

However, Mills is not suing McDonnell. Nor is he suing The Times, who published an interview with Consulting Association boss Ian Kerr (now deceased) who spoke of his links with police and the ‘two way information exchange’.

The sole target of Mills’ legal action is the GMB, who have given extensive legal support to blacklisted workers and helped to organise protests against blacklisters.

A CHANGE OF PLAN

In his claim against the GMB, Mills say it had been his

‘intention to develop and pursue an academic, teaching career exploiting his police experience and training’

In 2013 he published a candid essay aimed at fellow police strategists in entitled The successes and failures of policing animal rights extremism in the UK 2004–2010 as part of his work towards a doctorate. He gained this qualification at London Metropolitan University on a course run by a team including former spycop boss Bob Lambert.

Mills had a part time post at Anglia Ruskin University around that time. The GMB planned a series of demonstrations about blacklisting in March 2015, including one at Andrea Ruskin University. The university’s lawyers wrote to the GMB saying Mills’ employment there had ended in 2014 and there were no plans to renew it. The union framed this in terms of Mills being sacked and alluded to a blacklisting connection, which stretches the truth.

However, it’s clear that any future academic employer of Mills’ policing experience would be subject to demonstrations. Bob Lambert’s post at London Metropolitan University was, at the time, the subject of a campaign of monthly protests, and spycops campaigners had held meetings there and at Lambert’s other employer, the University of St Andrews. These were continued until Lambert resigned from both posts in December 2015. It seems likely that Mills and Lambert discussed all this.

As with Lambert, Mills fears the toll on his prestige and salary if he is held responsible for the unlawful actions of disgraced spycops.

No date has been set for the defamation hearing.

[The Undercover Research Group have produced a profile of Gordon Mills.]

Blacklisted Workers Win Payout

Blacklisted workers outside the High CourtMore than six years since the construction industry blacklist was exposed, firms involved have paid out millions to affected workers.

More than 3,000 people were on the illegal list run by the Consulting Association and most of the big construction companies would use it to vet applicants for jobs. Trade unionism, political activity, even just wanting the legal minimum health and safety standards was enough to get people barred from work.

Every constabulary’s Special Branch assisted by routinely supplying the blacklist with details of political activists.

In the 2000s the spycop unit NETCU – National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit – met with the Consulting Association. The exact nature of the meetings has yet to be confirmed, but it clearly wasn’t to criticise or arrest the people running it.

The total compensation for blacklisting was about £75m for 771 claimants, with legal costs on both sides estimated at £25m. It will be paid by eight companies; Carillion, Balfour Beatty, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci.

Dave Smith, secretary of the Blacklist Support Group which has spearheaded the campaign for justice, said

‘Despite all of the denials and attempts to cover up their secret conspiracy, the largest multinationals in the construction sector have been forced to pay out millions in compensation.

‘Make no mistake, the High Court action is a historic victory for the trade union movement against the vicious face of free market capitalism.’

The legal action was led by the GMB whose general secretary Tim Roache added:

‘For decades household-name construction companies implemented an illegal blacklisting system, which denied a generation of trade union activists and health and safety reps an opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. Finally they have been held to account in public and at great cost to them financially and reputationally.

‘Preventing 3,213 workers earning a living to support their families was a gross injustice, and government and employers’ organisations must never forget this sordid episode. Without strong regulation and penalties holding them to account, employers will always be tempted to put profit above people.’

The settlement comes six months after the companies finally apologised in the High Court. The British legal system only measures damages in money, and so claims can be forcibly settled by wrongdoers with payouts to prevent them having to disclose details of their deeds in court.

It mirrors November’s settlement with women who brought a case against the Metropolitan Police after being deceived into intimate relationships. After years of denials and obstructions from their abusers, there was a cheque and an apology but no answers.

As Jacqui, the first woman to settle such a case with the Met, noted at the time

‘The amount of money [in the settlement] shows there is a cover-up. It says the more we dig the dirtier it gets. All they want to do is concrete it in – put it in a box and make it go away. If I had a choice – less money and more truth, I obviously would have gone for that.

As with other victims of spycops, the truth about blacklisted construction workers has had to be revealed by the victims. It has been comprehensively documented in Dave Smith and Phil Chamberlain’s book Blacklisted: The Secret War Between Big Business and Union Activists.

For the blacklisted construction workers, after October’s apology Dave Smith declared

‘The blacklisting wretches have run up the white flag. They are guilty as sin and this is a desperate attempt to to try and avoid the spectacle of a High Court conspiracy trail. Personally, I want to see the directors of this national scandal given evidence under oath about their involvement in this systematic human rights abuse. Real justice would see those responsible for ruining so many lives sent to jail.

‘Unfortunately the British legal system is unlikely to provide real justice but we will continue to push for full disclosure of the evidence that has been deliberately concealed and a public inquiry to expose the full extent of this national scandal.’

Accountability has been established. The fight for the truth will continue.

Blacklist Support Group: Protest, 10 July

Blacklist Support Group

Last week eight major construction firms involved in the industry’s blacklist made a fresh attempt at giving compensation for their illegal activity and the hardship it caused. It has been roundly dismissed by the workers and unions.

THE BLACKLIST AND STATE SPYING

The construction blacklist was run by a company called the Consulting Association. When the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) raided in 2009 they found 44 firms had used it including most of the big names in the industry. More than 3,000 people were on the list, many with files dozens of pages long including information about their family.

Most were on the list for workplace organising.  Dave Smith told parliament

Virtually everything in my file relates to where I have raised concerns about health and safety, asbestos, toilets overflowing on building sites and a young lad falling off the third floor of scaffolding… Throughout my file, there is nothing that mentions my doing anything other than raising concerns about health and safety, conducting normal trade union activities, giving interviews to various organisations and raising concerns about unpaid wages. Nowhere am I accused of doing unofficial strikes or anything like that; that just isn’t the case.

Whilst most information came from employers, the files also included material that could only have come from the police or MI5. The Independent Police Complaints Commission has conceded that it was likely to have been a routine part of Special Branch work across the country to supply this illegal list. Undercover police whistleblower Peter Francis says he not only infiltrated anti-racist organisations and was sent to find material to smear Stephen Lawrence’s family – he also believes his intelligence was used for the construction blacklist.

The undercover National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU) that deployed the likes of Mark Kennedy was only one of three units run by the Association of Chief Police Officers. They also ran the National Domestic Extremism Unit that collated the intelligence from NPOIU officers, and the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU) which advised companies who were the target of protesters. It is known that NETCU met with the Consulting Association but the ICO is refusing to release the details of what went on.

The Metropolitan Police initially dismissed a complaint from the Blacklist Support Group alleging police collusion but, following publication of a posthumous interview with the Consulting Association’s Ian Kerr detailing a meeting with a ‘key officer’ from NETCU, they’ve launched an investigation. There can be no credibility in yet another self-investigation from police who’ve already demonstrated their reluctance on this issue.

The scale of the blacklist is staggering.

In the period between 1996/7 and 2003/04,  the Carillion group, (trading as Tarmac/ Carillion/ John Mowlem)  paid £83,161.00, and was then the third largest supporter and user of the blacklist. This spending broke down as an annual fee of £3,500, plus a fee of up to £2.20 per name to check information on the unlawful database.

At £2.20 a time, it means they made nearly 30,000 name checks – and there were two even larger users. As the list was secret, there was no way to check the veracity of the information, nor to get off it. Workers were cast out of their trade for life. Some people were never in the trade – one was a teacher who had a file due to being on an anti-racist demonstration. Around 200 environmental activists also had files.

THE INSULT OF THE OFFER

Ian Kerr, the man who was paid £46,000 a year to ruin thousands of lives with the Consulting Association, was fined £5,000. The companies who paid for it were let off with a warning. The eight of those firms in the compensation offer make pre-tax profits of over a billion pounds a year.

This week’s basic compentsation offer is for a fast-tracked £4000, rising to £20,000 for those who can prove discrimination. With blacklisters by definition having suffered hardship and waited years for compensation, many will be tempted to take the offer. For those prepared to spend up to six months arguing and have irrefutable proof of the worst damage done, there is a cap of £100,000 compensation. Some of these people went without work for many years. For a lot of people on the blacklist the loss of earnings exceeds £100,000, and that’s before interest, let alone any consideration of the impacts on their privacy,  psychological welfare, their home life and the upbringing of their children. As Dave Smith said,

I was a qualified engineer and during one of the longest building booms this country has ever known, my children were on milk tokens

People had breakdowns, some attempted suicide. Some changed their identities to try to get work. Whilst the companies have issued a statement saying they believe were wrong to use the list, the insultingly paltry figures in this attempt at a settlement suggest otherwise. It appears that their only real regret is that they have been caught.

THE DEMAND FOR JUSTICE

The construction blacklist is yet another example of different pillars of the establishment unethically and illegally working in concert to protect their position. It is further proof of the anti-democratic remit of the undercover police who sought to stifle active politics on the spectrum outside the sliver that is represented in the House of Commons. The construction workers’ fight for truth and justice is another facet of the same struggle of the black justice campaigns, environmentalists, social justice activists, anti-fascists and others who were spied on and abused by Britain’s political secret police.

The case is back in court next week (hence the timing of the new offer of compensation). The blacklist Support Group has organised a protest outside the hearing which has already had pledges of support from union members from UNITE, UCATT, GMB and the RMT as well as environmental activists.

Where: Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2N 5HX
When: 9-10am on Thursday 10th July.

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