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THE SECRETIVE methods used against activists and trade unionists in Britain is exposed in the film Solidarity which, as well as providing the historic background to blacklisting, tells the story of construction workers and activists spied on by the police in recent years and their ongoing struggle for justice.
Blacklisting in the construction industry has affected thousands of workers who’ve been labelled “troublemakers” for speaking out and secretively denied employment. The alarming links between workplace blacklisting and undercover policing is revealed in Lucy Parker’s film, which closely follows meetings between activists and law students, revealing their determination to find a route to justice.
The film opens with a bricklayer opening his blacklist file in 2009 and moves on to a blacklisted electrician putting up a banner in a meeting hall. It’s typical of the film’s intimate and detailed approach, with people — often unused to being listened to — telling how they were blacklisted at the hands of The Consulting Association (TCA).
I myself was sacked in the early 1990s by two TCA contractors after the workforce signed a petition calling on the government to continue building luxury flats during a property crash in order to house homeless families packed in seedy bed-and-breakfast hotels.
It was backed by the Ucatt and TGWU unions and drew support from some large sites, and elsewhere in the film support from Police Spies Out of Lives, the Blacklist Support Group, law students and trade union activists is given due credit.
The film shares experiences of victimisation, with women relating how they had been used as “cover” by undercover policemen, and we see MPs of The Scottish affairs select committee grilling TCA bosses. Its executive officer Ian Kerr declares that he performed his role “like a speaking clock” and building boss Cullum McAlpine refuses to answer questions.
Both were key in a conspiracy involving 44 major British contractors linked to the police apparatus who vetted and blacklisted on an industrial scale.
There’s footage of an arrest at a demonstration outside a great-and-good building industry awards bash at London’s Grosvenor Hotel, law students discussing defence legal angles and a protest at the secrecy and lack of progress by core participants in the inquiry into undercover policing.
Solidarity’s premier took place at Sheffield DocFest just a few weeks after the death of retired bricklayer and Ucatt branch official Brian Higgins, who’ll be sorely missed. He was one of the most blacklisted building trade unionists and a stalwart campaigner against it and he’d certainly have appreciated this film, as did the many who’ve been blacklisted attending the premiere.
After the film many of them stood on the stage with the production team, left fists raised. The message was clear — the likes of TCA think they can intimidate and undermine us but, gripping and liberating, Solidarity induces the opposite.
Further information on the film is available at solidarityfilm.com and on Facebook: Seety Proggecks or Twitter: @solidarity_film
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