1 July 2015
Public enquiry into undercover police activity must include trade unions and blacklisting
Last year Secretary Theresa May announced the finally set up an inquiry into inappropriate police infiltration and corruption; “The Ellison Review”. The decision came in response to the allegation that the police had spied on and attempted to smear the family of murder victim Stephen Lawrence.
Lord Pitchford, who has sat in the court of appeal for five years, will head the investigation. However, the remit of the investigation is still unclear. Given the extensive and highly unethical reports of police infiltration of the labour movement, it is imperative that it is included in the enquiry.
Peter Francis, a former member of Scotland Yard’s undercover policing unit the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) blew the whistle on police malpractice, revealing that as well as spying on the Lawrences and anti-racist campaign groups, he went undercover to infiltrate trade unions for four years.
Francis infiltrated Unison, the Fire Brigades Union, the Communication Workers Union, the National Union of Teachers, and the National Union of Students. Another officer was instructed to pose as a joiner to spy on UCATT for a period of three years.
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the FBU, has written to Lord Pitchford, encouraging him to include the infringement of trade union privacy in the enquiry. He said; “Trade unions are the largest democratic, mass-membership organisations in the UK. Trade unionists have legitimate concerns about police operations that may have undermined our decisions, interfered with industrial relations and led to the victimisation of our elected officials.”
The Blacklist Support Group, which is going from strength to strength, is also calling for inclusion in the enquiry over the police collusion with blacklisters. Secretary Dave Smith said; “Trade unions are a perfectly legal part of civil society. Why are we being infiltrated by undercover police units and why is the state sharing intelligence with big business? It is only because we were prepared to kick up a stink that the evidence about police collusion has slowly come to light.”
Francis said that since 1968, a unit within the Special Branch, known as the Industrial Section, has monitored virtually every trade union and its industrial activity. However, as this article documents, the police has a long history of spying on trade unionists and sharing the information with employers, going back much further.