BSG pays tribute to the late Brian Higgins – the most blacklisted building worker in the UK

The Blacklist Support Group has announced the sad death last weekend of blacklisted bricklayer Brian Higgins.

Brian was the former secretary of Northampton UCATT and the the rank and file Building Worker Group. His blacklist file starts in 1978 and ran to 49 pages, the largest held by The Consulting Association.

During the miners strike, Brian was part of the Laing’s Lock Out Committee, and was presented with a High Court injunction to stop picketing after he and other activists were sacked for their union activities on a building site in South London. He ignored it.

He was also spied on by Mark Jenner, the undercover police agent provocateur from the Special Demonstration Squad, and was a core participant in the public inquiry into undercover policing.

Brain sat on the BSG executive and spoke at our AGMs, until ill health led to him to stand down. Brian was instrumental in setting up a private meeting in Brussels with the European Commissioner Laszlo Andor, which resulted in new anti-blacklisting legislation being presented to the European parliament.

Brian was uncompromising in his call for an independent investigation into possible union collusion in blacklisting.

This is Brian in his own words, when he wrote a review for Blacklisted: “The book says I raged against the blacklist. I did and still do. But I have to say the thing about it which angers, in fact, enrages me most, is that some full time officials undoubtedly aided and abetted blacklisting of rank and file union members and some are probably still doing this as the Blacklist continues.

“It is painfully obvious building employers – who regularly wined and dined full time union officials, took some on golf outings and to sporting contests, to very expensive posh hotels, and even on visits to the Naval and Military Gentlemen’s Club – would demand some things in return!

“After all there is no such thing as a free lunch and we’re talking about this with knobs on here! Don’t tell us that sometimes the names of site union militants and activists did not come up, and what full time officials said, in these circumstances, did not end up on some Consulting Association (CA) files. This sort of socialising, fraternising and consorting with building employers masquerading as ‘negotiations’ is corrupt and corrupting in the extreme. It’s absolutely disgusting to think that while fulltime union officials were doing this many rank and file union members were being blacklisted out of existence!”

Blacklist Support Group secretary Dave Smith said: “Brian was one of the blacklisted construction workers who signed the Open Letter to Unite calling for an investigation to be set up. It is now too late for Brian, but we hope that the Unite EC will set up the investigation into possible collusion ASAP.

“Anyone who has heard Brain speak will remember his booming Glaswegian voice, disdain for union bureaucracy and his liberal use of industrial language. I’ve stood on pickets lines and attended union conference with Brian.

“I didn’t always agree with everything Brian said (but that is not unusual in the labour movement) and internal union polemics were part of his persona, but it is undeniable that Brian was one of the leading rank and file industrial militants of his generation, who had a significant impact on trade unionism in the construction industry. Our thoughts are with his family.”

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