Blacklisting has a long history in the British construction industry. For generations, many workers who have been involved in building trade unions, or who have raised concerns about wages and conditions on the sites where they worked, have become victims of a well-organised, but secret, process of exclusion from the industry. In some instances, simply having worked on a particular site where strikes or disputes took place was enough of a reason to be blacklisted. The hidden nature of the practice made it difficult to prove, but its existence was an accepted fact. Many leading construction companies operated blacklists. They supported organisations such as the Economic League, which collated and provided information on trade unionists to employers. The recent scandal involving the links between some of the largest construction companies in Britain and the blacklisting body, the Consulting Association, shows that it is a practice that is still very much alive in the industry today.
Several of the ex-workers we interviewed during the research were blacklisted. This included many who worked on the Barbican re-development. Some recounted times when vacancies were suddenly filled, only after they had expressed an interest, and how on the few occasions they got past this point and arranged for interviews, the jobs were gone by the time they reached the site.
In this clip, scaffolder Michael Houlihan recalls how he was blacklisted following the 1966-1967 lock-out on Myton’s Barbican site.
One recalled his locallabour exchange, phoning for a job on his behalf, being told by a major construction company that on no account would he ever be hired on any of their sites anywhere in the United Kingdom. These accounts showed the human cost of this pernicious practice, which continues to blight the lives of building workers and their families today.
View article from Building Workers Charter Volume 3, 12, 1976.