London, United Kingdom (NI) – Dave Smith, co-author of Blacklisted, published by New Internationalist earlier this year, was at trial today (23 July). Smith, one of thousands of workers blacklisted by the construction industry, is charged with unlawful obstruction of the highway when, along with 40 other protesters, he stopped traffic on Park Lane outside a Construction News Awards ceremony held at the Hilton Hotel in March this year.
For more than 6 years campaigners have called for jail sentences for those directors of transnational companies responsible for the construction industry blacklist conspiracy. To date, not a single senior manager has even been interviewed by the police or disciplined by their employer.
But when the Blacklist Support Group (BSG) dared to protest about safety concerns on Crossrail and the ongoing blacklisting of union activists on the publicly funded project, Dave Smith (BSG secretary) was arrested.
Smith is a leading campaigner against the blacklisting of union members in the building industry and as co-author, with journalist Phil Chamberlain, of the recently published book Blacklisted: the secret war between big business and union activists has exposed the role of undercover police spying on trade unions.
Smith has repeatedly claimed that both he and the BSG continue to be spied on by undercover police because of their campaigning activities. The BSG is one of the groups that has made submissions to the Pitchford public inquiry into undercover policing recently set up by Theresa May.
The Metropolitan Police have refused to supply Smith with a copy of his police file, claiming ‘national security’ and ‘ongoing investigations’ as the reasons. Freedom of Information requests in relation to police spying on the BSG receive the response that the Metropolitan Police can ‘Neither Confirm Nor Deny’ whether surveillance is ongoing. Yet Police notebooks disclosed as evidence for Thursday’s trial state that the Metropolitan Police had intelligence about the demonstrators before the protest took place. Full details will be disclosed during witness evidence at the trial.
Dave Smith commented, ‘It seems that it’s one law for big business and another law for the rest of us. Transnationals and the secret police can conspire against trade unions and destroy evidence that would be used in court cases, and nothing happens. But if we dare to protest about the human rights scandal, we get arrested. At a time when the Conservative government is attacking trade unions and increasing state surveillance, this trial is about defending the democratic right to protest.’
There is currently a High Court group litigation on the blacklisting scandal, with around 700 blacklisted workers against 40 of the largest firms in the British construction industry. The full trial is set for May 2016 and will last 10 weeks.