“The biggest difficulty we faced with the blacklisting and the undercover police campaigns, is that people think we live in a liberal democracy and things like that don’t happen here”: these are the words of John McDonnell, shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his keynote speech at the opening plenary of the Blacklisting, Bullying & Blowing the Whistle conference at the University of Greenwich co-hosted by Blacklist Support Group (BSG) and the Work & Employment Research Unit (WERU) last weekend.
The aim of the conference supported by New Internationalist and the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, was to expose the hidden underbelly of the modern workplace, where intrusive surveillance of workers is common and victimization of those prepared to stand up for their rights is widespread (but virtually ignored by the mainstream media). We certainly achieved that, with reports about the conference appearing in the press before, during and after the event.
The 4 core themes of the conference were: Blacklisting – Bullying – Whistleblowing – Police Surveillance. But the event was not just a conference, it was a book launch, a film premier and an art exhibition.
Speakers included: John McDonnell but also legal experts including; John Hendy QC, David Renton and Declan Owens, trade union leaders such as NUJ General Secretary, Michelle Stanistreet and ASGs; Gail,Cartmail (UNITE), Roger McKenzie (UNISON), Amanda Brown (NUT). Some of the UK’s leading academics in the field of work and whistleblowing were also in attendance such as Prof. Sian Moore, Prof. Keith Ewing, Prof. Phil Taylor, Prof. David Lewis, Dr Jack Fawbert and Dr Wim Vandekerckhove.
But it was the inclusion of activists on the panels that gave the conference its unique insight to the realities of the modern workplace and the weekend’s unique feel. From Roy Bentham and Dave Smith from the Blacklist Support Group, to Eileen Chubb and Dr Minh Alexander among many victimised whistleblowers speaking, plus Lee Jasper and Suresh Grover representing Black and Asian communities suffering under the austerity cuts and because of state surveillance.
Friday evening saw the film premier of the new ‘Blacklisted’ documentary by director Tom Wood (via Reel News) and the book launch of ‘Blacklisted: the secret war between big business and union activists’ by Dave Smith & Phil Chamberlain published by New Internationalist.
Art Against Blacklisting organised an installation of original works plus a photographic and art exhibition by supportive artists and photographers including works by Mike Huges, Shaun Dey, Guy Smallman, Jess Hurd, Zita Holbourne, Molly Cooper, Andrew Wiard, Mike Hughes, Lucy Parker and Joanne Fowler.
The biggest news story of the weekend and the most memorable session in the conference related to undercover police surveillance of activists. The police spy known as ‘Carlo Neri’ was accused of inciting anti-racist campaigners to firebomb a charity that he claimed was run by an Italian fascist. This allegation appeared in the ‘Blacklisted’ book launched at the conference and made the national press. ‘Andrea’, the female activist who was deceived into a long term relationship with the undercover officer spoke in public for the very first time at the spycops plenary session at the conference, which was chaired by the BSG and Police Spies Out of Lives spokesperson, Helen Steel. Andrea’s emotional testimony was the most memorable part of the weekend.
McDonnell told the delegates to the conference “You tell us what you want a Corbyn Labour government to introduce, and I will make sure it gets discussed at the highest level”. We intend to do just that.
Below are just a few of the press and photo-journalism reports generated by from the conference:
BSG would like to say a ‘massive thank you’ to everyone who helped make the event possible. From the speakers, the University of Greenwich events staff, the artists and musicians.
This seminar considers the issue of migrant labour and will take place on Wednesday, 5th October 2012, from 3-6 pm at the University of Greenwich (Hamilton House-room102). In the context of the Brexit decision it is especially important to put labour migration into a transnational context, taking into account global neo-liberalization processes and the effects of other types of movements (capital, goods and services) on the movement of labour and growing inequality. We have three expert speakers:
Professor Alan Manning (London School of Economics) is a member of the Migration Advisory Committee and will speak about the role of the committee, its research and its future post-Brexit. Alan Manning is Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics. He studied at Clare College Cambridge and received his DPhil at Nuffield College Oxford before becoming a lecturer at Birkbeck College London. He has worked at the LSE since 1989 and was Head of the Economics Department from 2009-2012. He has published widely on labour economics and is currently researching the impact of minimum wages on wage inequality in the UK and the USA, the impact of immigration on wages, the cyclicality in wages and reservation wage and the migration response to local shocks.
Dr Barbara Samaluk (University of Greernwich) will speak about her research on labour migration from post-socialist central and eastern Europe (CEE) to the UK. Her talk will focus on the strategies of migrant workers from Poland and Slovenia within the process of transnational exchange characterized by emerging transnational staffing agencies that use various tactics to extract profits from those wishing to migrate and new arrivals, who are not yet familiar with UK’s institutions, standards and practices. It will expose unequal economic and symbolic geographies caused by the global expansion of neoliberalism, which push workers to emigrate, inform their initial choices and affect the skill level and pay at which migrant workers find themselves when they arrive to an unfamiliar labour market.
Barbara Samaluk is a postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Work and Employment Research Unit at the University of Greenwich Business School. Her research interests include transnational employment relations, migration and intersectionality, marketization effects and growing precarity within rescaled and shrinking post-socialist welfare states and emerging forms of worker-(non) citizens representation and activism. She is currently involved in an ERC project on the effects of marketization on societies and in a European Trade Union Institute project on trade union innovation within post-socialist CEE countries. She has just been awarded a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship for a new research project that aims to investigate work transitions and transnational mobility of young and precarious teachers and social care workers from Slovenian post-crisis and austerity driven context.
Professor Sonia McKay (Universities of the West of England and Greenwich) will base her contribution around research conducted as part of a two-year ESRC funded project, UndocNet. The project investigated the working lives of migrants without documents living in London together with the experiences and rationales of minority ethnic employers employing those without documents. She will focus on the contradictions between state policies that, while marginalising and criminalising migrants without documents, at the same time endorse exploitative labour practices through an absence of regulation and weak employment rights. She will draw on a recently published book, ‘Living on the margins – undocumented migrants in a global city’, written with Professor Alice Bloch, the co-investigator on the ESRC project.
Sonia McKay is a visiting Professor of European Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Greenwich as well as the University of the West of England. She was previously at the Working Lives Research Institute, London Metropolitan University where she headed a number of research projects, mainly focusing on discrimination, migration and collective organisation at both national and EU level. Prior to this she worked as the researcher in employment law at the Labour Research Department, a post she held for 20 years. She holds a law degree from Queens University, Belfast and a PhD in employment law from Wolfson College, Cambridge.
This is an open seminar but please inform Professor Geoff White (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are planning to attend from outside the University of Greenwich.
The conference will take place at the University of Greenwich on 16th and 17th September 2016. It is organised by Blacklist Support Group (BSG) and the Work & Employment Research Unit (WERU) at the University of Greenwich supported by New Internatinalist and Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. A key aim will be to explore the different and interlocking ways in which surveillance and intensified control operate; in the workplace, in employment and in relation to community campaigns and civil rights activism.
Plenary sessions and workshops will consider the blacklisting and victimisation of activists and the treatment of whistleblowers, who have both highlighted corporate malpractice in the private sector and failures in public service provision. They will also consider the modern workplace tyranny of performance management where workers are bullied by intense monitoring and measurement of their work, with potentially discriminatory effects on disabled, Black and Minority Ethnic, migrant, women and older and younger workers. The conference brings together academics, politicians, lawyers and activists with a view to inputting into the formulation of a programme of policy and action that can restore workplace rights and fairness at work.
The conference will be accompanied by:
- The launch of the book by Dave Smith and Phil Chamberlain: Blacklisted The Secret War between Big Business and Union Activists.
- Documentary movie ‘Blacklisted’ directed by Tom Wood-Reel News.
- Art exhibition curated by Art Against Blacklisting
- Videos by Reel News shown will be shown on the big screen at every break.
For more information on the conference and how to book your place, please visit the following link.
A WERU member, dr Barbara Samaluk, was awarded the Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship tenable for a research project entitled “Aiming for skilled or secure employment on the EU market: a Sisyphean task?”. The project will investigate the process of work transitions and transnational mobility of qualified young and precarious teachers and social care workers. It will expose the labour invested by workers when moving between various work and non-work statuses and geographical and political boundaries and their strategies and choices of channels/intermediaries used in search for skilled or secure employment on the EU market. The context is the socio-economic costs of Slovenian austerity and these are considered through a multilevel and transnational methodological approach which aims to explore the effects on employment, emigration and the relations of transnational exchange.
More information about this award can be found on the following link: http://www2.gre.ac.uk/about/news/articles/2016/a3674-barbara-samaluk-leverhulme
In late May 2016 Dr Graham Symon, Dr Ulke Veersma, Dr Bethania Mendes De Brito Antunes and Dr Laura William travelled to Bergamo, Italy to engage in the first meeting for their exciting project on ‘Bargaining for productivity: an international comparative study of how productivity is manifested on the collective bargaining agenda’. Partner institutions that attended the meeting alongside the University of Greenwich were the University of Duisburg-Essen (Germany); University of Amsterdam (Netherlands); Warsaw School of Economics (Poland); ADAPT & University of Modena & Reggio Emilia (Italy); and Universitat Autonomia de Barcelona (Catalonia). The meeting was productive with partners agreeing on the framework for the project and key dates set.
The introduction of the National Living Wage (NLW) in April appears to have only had a minor effect on the latest Average Weekly Earnings (AWE) figures. The earnings data released today by the ONS are for the period to the end of April 2016 and the figures were expected to show a boost to earnings in the lowest-paid sector, that covering wholesale, retail, hotels and restaurants. However total pay growth in this large sector for the period from February to April 2016 was comparatively modest at 1.3%, up slightly on the even weaker three-month average of 1.0% for January to March.
The single-month figures for the sector showed stronger growth, of 2.3% in the year to April, up from a negative -1.4% in the year to March. But in terms of actual pay there was little movement in the sector between February and April: in February average weekly earnings were £338, in March £336 and in April £339. One possible explanation is that cost-offsetting measures to minimise the impact of the NLW, such as the reduction or removal of premium payments, might have had the desired effect, countering the increase in basic rates.
Overall, average weekly earnings in the whole economy grew by 2.0% in the year to April 2016, the same as in the year to March. Earnings growth in the private sector was 2.1% and in the public sector was 1.8%.
Within the private sector the data shows variations between industries. Earnings growth in the finance and business services sector was 1.7%, down from 2.2% in March, the March figure having been boosted by bonus payments.
Pay growth in construction continues at very high levels. The rate of growth in April was 8.4%, up marginally on the revised figure of 8.3% in March. Skill shortages in a booming sector continue to be the motor for change here.
Pay growth in manufacturing continues to reflect the economic weakness in this sector. Average weekly earnings in April were 1.6% higher than a year ago, down from 1.7% in the year to March.
By: Alastair Hatchett, Visiting Fellow, University of Greenwich