An unemployed electrician who has been campaigning against blacklisting in the construction for over a year was assaulted by security guards at the Crossrail project, his former place of work, yesterday morning.
Frank Morris, 38, from Enfield, north London, has been unable to find work because his name appears on a blacklist of construction workers who have raised safety concerns or are union representatives.
He was picketing at the Westbourne Park site yesterday, when security guards shoved him against the railings and smashed up his PA system. For a bit of recent history on the campaign involving Frank and the Blacklist Support Group, see the video below, shot by the video activist collective ReelNews.
Frank, who has four children, has worked only a few weeks ever since he was dismissed from a job at the Olympic media centre in February 2011, when he believes he was blacklisted for supporting a co-worker who was sacked for raising safety concerns at the Stratford site.
He lost his latest job in September 2012, after several weeks of work at the £15billion taxpayer-funded Crossrail project in Westbourne Park, west London. There he had become a shop steward for union Unite and has raised safety issues – the reason he believes Crossrail terminated the contract with his employer, EIS Electrical Ltd.
The electrician’s claim that blacklisting is rife in the construction industry comes weeks after a call by Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna for a Leveson-style inquiry into the practice – an illegal process which prevents workers deemed troublesome or involved in trade unions from finding work.
The scandal was exposed in 2009 after a raid on the offices of the Consulting Association, a clandestine company that operated a blacklist on behalf of over 40 major construction firms. The list included Bam & Kier, part of the BFK consortium that is constructing two railway tunnels that will run between the Royal Oak Portal and the new Farringdon Crossrail station, and who Frank believes are implicated.
Crossrail was dragged into the blacklisting scandal in December, when it was revealed that Ron Barron, then industrial relations manager at the project, routinely used the Consulting Association’s secret list of trade union members at a previous job. Barron worked at project delivery partner Bechtel, and emerged as a regular user of the blacklist at a previous job at construction giant CB&I. A spokesman for Crossrail said Barron left the project in November last year – Unite the Union said he was sacked after it was discovered that he was a leading blacklister.
An electrician with more than 20 years experience at major construction projects including the new Wembley Stadium, Canary Wharf, Terminal 5 at Heathrow and several M25 tunnelling projects, Frank said: “I have worked on major construction projects for over 20 years and suddenly I was unable to find any work. I finally got a job with EIS and was transferred to the Crossrail project. Fearing I had been blacklisted because of what happened at the Olympic site, I became a shop steward for Unite which I thought would offer me protection.
“But after raising safety issues on the tunnel boring machine I was removed from site and placed in a site hut for 11 hours a day, away from other workers and with absolutely nothing to do. Two weeks later Crossrail terminated the contract with EIS, and along with 27 others I was made redundant.”
Union Unite believes Crossrail has failed to look at the evidence of blacklisting on the project and has called on Transport for London to investigate the issue.
Crossrail denied blacklisting has ever taken place at the project. A spokesman said: “Mr Morris is wrong to claim that he was laid off or removed from a Crossrail site for raising safety concerns. A contract between our western tunnels contractor BFK and EIS Electrical ended in September 2012 as the work EIS were carrying out to commission the first two tunnel boring machines at Westbourne Park had been completed with tunnelling now under way.”
But EIS Electrical Ltd confirmed the termination of its Crossrail contract in September was unusually sudden and unexpected, particularly because it had been renewed for another year just two months before, in July, and that Crossrail managers had praised the work the firm had done. The company declined to comment any further.
Frank said: “Their claim that they terminated the contract with EIS because the work was done is ridiculous, these things don’t happen at the drop of a hat.
“Crossrail are recruiting 4,000 electricians as we speak, but there is no job for me. We were moved from that contract for no reason other than blacklisting. I am accusing them outright – they can take me to court for libel but they are not prepared to do that.
“We’re in the middle of a building recession and these construction projects are increasingly relying on casual labour. Construction sites are often not safe and workers need to be able to raise that.
“Blacklisting is devastating, it ruins people’s lives, tears families apart, people get divorced and lose their homes, simply because they are active union reps or raise issues of work safety with their employer.”
Frank is taking BFK, EIS and Crossrail to an Employment Tribunal under blacklisting regulation and victimisation over trade union activity, as well as the failure to give him a 90 days’ redundancy notice. Lively pickets continue at the Westbourne Park and Tottenham Court Road sites.
The Blacklist Support Group demand:
– A full public inquiry by UK government
– A public apology from the firms
– Set up a compensation Fund
– Employ blacklisted workers on their projects
– NO public contracts for proven blacklisting companies
– Criminal charges against the human rights abusers
If people want to support Frank and other blacklisted workers check out the Blacklist Support Group Facebook page for events coming up.
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