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Issue #1685      May 20, 2015

Police agents “spied on fire union chief”

The leader of a major trade union has demanded answers after a whistleblower suggested that he had been personally spied on by an elite undercover police unit.

Fire Brigades Union (FBU) general secretary Matt Wrack said he was “shocked” but “not surprised” to learn that officers of the Metropolitan Police’s special demonstration squad (SDS) had monitored his activities in the trade union and anti-fascist movements.

The now-disbanded SDS, which has previously come under fire for allowing undercover officers to sleep with their targets, is heavily implicated in recent revelations over blacklisting in the construction industry.

Evidence suggests that police officers routinely passed information to the Consulting Association, the right-wing bosses’ club whose database of blacklisted workers was seized by the Information Commissioner in 2009.

In March former SDS copper Peter Francis revealed that he had spied on activists from the FBU alongside those of the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU), Unison and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) when undercover and using the name Peter Black.

Fellow SDS officer Mark Jenner had infiltrated the labour movement so deeply that he even chaired union and left-wing meetings, according to Blacklisted co-author Dave Smith, who addressed an FBU fringe meeting last week week.

Mr Smith also alleged that MI5 and Special Branch operate dedicated industrial units.

But in new developments, sources have suggested that Mr Wrack was directly spied on by the SDS as part of its operations targeting trade unionists, socialist activists and the anti-racist movement in the 1990s.

And in his speech to firefighters, Mr Smith confirmed that “Matt Wrack was part of the same anti-fascist events where Peter Francis was operating.

“I’ve been on anti-racism protests where Peter Francis was there and Matt Wrack was also there.”

In his book, Mr Smith reports that he himself had been spied on by undercover officers and that other targets included socialist activist Dan Gilman, RMT assistant general secretary Steve Hedley and bricklayer Frank Smith, who was active at the Colin Roach community centre in east London.

It has also been suggested that police disguised efforts to gather intelligence on trade union activities as surveillance of the anti-fascist movement.

Speaking exclusively to the Star, Mr Wrack confirmed that he would request a copy of his file from the Met and was currently discussing the matter with lawyers.

“Any intrusion, even as someone who is around the movement and knows what goes on … it comes as a shock to experience it,” he said.

But he said it was “no surprise” that FBU members were targeted “because we do organise campaigns and fight back.”

“People will find the degree of (the blacklisting operation) and the degree of state involvement staggering,” he said.

Mr Wrack demanded that top police officers ditch their policy of refusing to disclose reports from undercover agents.

“Anyone directly involved has the right to know what spying was done, who (carried it out) and what reports (were compiled),” he said. “You’d have to demand transparency and an end to any political policing structures.

“All special units targeting people engaging in legitimate political and industrial activity should be scrapped and their archives made accessible.”

Morning Star

Next article – Senate sidetracks TPP for now

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