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Blacklisting or “secret vetting”. It’s got all the flavour of a spy thriller with none of the fiction.

One day in 2009 the Information Commissioner’s officers – acting on a tip off from an assiduous journalist – raided a nondescript office in the Midlands and found a list containing over 3,000 names, together with filing cabinets full of index cards.

The contents of those cards have to be seen to be believed. Dating as far back as 1969, as well as names, addresses, dates of birth and National Insurance numbers some of the cards held comments such as “trouble maker” and “do not employ”, together with newspaper clippings and even photographs. The activities and whereabouts of men long since retired from the construction industry continued to be monitored, and other men were implicated by association – sometimes by mistake. Political associations were recorded, but not necessarily accurately. Men who had done nothing more radical than vote in elections were marked as “members of the communist party” and singled out as being “politically motivated”. Sons ran the risk of being included on the list because their fathers were, as did brothers.

Construction companies, ┬álargely referred to by code number alone, both supplied and ┬áconsulted the information stored on those cards when hiring men. ┬áSome of those companies refused men work, purely on the basis of someone else’s say so recorded on an index card. The ability of those men to work, to provide for their families and to maintain their dignity and self belief was on many occasions damaged beyond repair by this secretive vetting process.

If I had written these details into a novel they would have seemed fantastical, unbelievable. In fact the further back you go into the Economic League and the origins of this organisation the more “crime thriller” it gets. “Well it’s all very exciting” you might have thought “but it’s a bit far fetched. Who on earth is ever going to believe that pillars of industry would turn in against their own workforce, and not only that but do it secretly? With no right of reply? And on scant and often erroneous information?”

It happened, and many suspect it is happening still. This practice is unacceptable in any industry. The issue isn’t over yet.

Blacklisted

Finally, I can talk about it! As Unite announce this morning that they have settled the remaining claims against McAlpine, Balfour Beatty et al we are celebrating across the 4 groups involved representing UCATT, the GMB and the Blacklist Support Group. Seems we may be in the High Court on Wednesday to hear the Statement In Open Court read out. Looking forward to it as the culmination of a lot of heard work and the most exciting period of my career….

The time to sit back and take stock marches relentlessly on…

It’s been two months and 16 days since I stopped work following my redundancy.

I’m half way through writing the next village am dram group play, about an am dram group play that goes…well…a bit “am dram”. It’s currently way too sunny to be doing this. Have I really escaped the tyranny of a 9.30 to 4.45 desk job for the chance to sit at my own desk?

No jobs on the horizon that I can yet see. One application in the pipeline for something to do with Youth Offenders, but I’m not holding my breath. I never heard from the major Charity, based locally, and am now catching myself seriously considering a career in the court service. Then I say the words M.O.J. aloud and snap out of it.

The eldest has finished GCSE’s and is at home with me. Not that I’d notice. It’s 3pm and I think I’ve just heard him get up and go into the shower.

Summer plans are coming together and involve lots of salt water and foam boards, with or without neoprene. There’s not enough climbing going on, but that’s because every other bugger has to work.

Much excitement in the extended family last week when one of our number went and said something very silly about girls and tears and science lessons…or something. There’s always someone worse off than yourself, isn’t there. Maybe I could consider a future in PR…

Two months on from The Day of Reckoning

I have now been unemployed for two whole months as of tomorrow.

First observation is, there isn’t much out there.

Second observation is, what there is out there is less well paid (yes, even for the exact same job)

Forgive me if I repeat myself, but transferable skills count for J-shizzle when competing against people who are offering to transfer much more seamlessly from an identical post into the one waiting to be filled.

So what’s the solution? Part time work in a local business for minimum wage? Buying at car boots to sell on E-Bay? Or self-employment? I think this is what protestors have in mind when they object to Government proclamations of higher levels of employment and are called out for being miserable pessimists. Would full employment be a victory if it entailed huge swathes of the population surviving on less than half of the salary their profession had led them to expect to be able to command?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m having fun and very grateful that I’ve been able to be present during these months of GCSE toil. The future doesn’t half weigh on your mind though at 4am.

Farewell to the legal profession as we know it

Whichever way you vote, wherever your political preferences lie, and whatever you believe to be the best result for Britain, GE2015 marks the end of the legal profession as we know it.

Too dramatic? A bit emotional? Oh, I don’t know – who now has any expectation of the cuts to Legal Aid being reversed or even tempered? Hands up those who think we can anticipate further restrictions from a Government confident that they have a mandate to carry on in the spirit of LASPO – quite a sea of palms there.

For Personal Injury in particular this truly is the end of days. The Insurers had already started setting out their demands in terms of fixed fees for Industrial Deafness. Does anyone really believe Industrial Disease generally won’t be next? I wouldn’t feel that your position is too safe either, Clinical Negligence practitioners. The ABI had the ear of Government before. How much more bold their demands can be, now that they know there is no appetite for opposition out there.

I have pondered this one before, but are we moving towards a no-fault compensation system, funded by a levy on employers?

Goodbye to the Human Rights Act. We have just given our new Government a mandate to abolish that particularly tiresome stumbling block. The Conservative Manifesto also promised to break the formal link between UK Courts and the European Court of Human Rights. That’s probably one pledge we can count on them carrying through.

My redundancy won’t be the last, and I’ve got sorry news for those of us who believe that “transferable skills” count for anything – in a crowded marketplace the person who gets the post will be the one who was already doing the exact same job as the one on offer.

Good luck everyone. The next 5 years are going to be rough.

Redundancy leads to unusual days

Not my style to humble brag, but yesterday really was quite outstandingly odd.

It began with cows in the rain, checking the two herds of Dexters that I’m stock watching for the Wildlife Trust, whilst shuffling along in massively oversized wellies as I hadn’t been able to find my own. The cattle obliged by being close to the boundary fence at both nature reserves, allowing me to minimise the time spent getting soaked before catching a train to London.

Lunch with a former work colleague full of legal gossip, and then as I was wandering along Long Acre staring in wonder at a massive monolith of a building I realised I was passing The Grand Lodge and that I could enter for the price of visiting a museum exhibition on Freemasonry and the First World War. Which was free. Looked at lots of exhibits without learning very much (no surprises there) but saw numerous men wandering around with aprons on. They really do that.

Coffee with a recruitment agent for more legal gossip, then swang by another rather Stalinesque building – the MOJ at Petty France – to say farewell to Chris Grayling. Or to his massive oversized puppet head at least, courtesy of the Justice Alliance.

Finally ale and a gig on the Pentonville Road where we weren’t quite the oldest swingers in town but were nevertheless treated with a slightly discomfiting respect.

Cows, aprons, massive Chris Grayling and music. There aren’t many weekdays like that when you’re working.

Back now to the paintbrush and the welcoming aural arms of Radio 4.

Week Two…

The interview for a job outside the legal world went well…so well that I spent the following 48 hours jumping down from stepladders hastily discarding loaded paintbrushes in order to answer the landline, only to find myself listening to yet another pre-recorded cold caller.

The rejection letter came by e-mail, sweetened with references to my “strong” application and inviting me to apply again next time a post was advertised. Oh well. Momentarily annoyed that they somehow couldn’t see the potential, by the following morning the knock back was processed and filed. Onwards and upwards!

I’ve spotted a couple of things that are worth the several hours it takes to complete the tailor made application forms (no-one seems to accept pre-drafted CVs anymore) and have a few meetings set up for next week to discuss possibilities within the Law, but with a twist.

The house decorating is coming along nicely and I spend most of that time enveloped in the warm and informative company of Radio 4. I know far more about the forthcoming election than anyone deserves, and it’s not as though I was even floating.

The hawthorne hedgerows are in blossom and I have a second herd of Dexter cattle to stock watch for the local Wildlife Trust. I can recommend this redundancy lark…

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