• authored by Blackcat
  • published Fri, Oct 25, 2002

Spies, Lies at the Union Gates

I touched on this a while back about how our governments are always spying on us rank and file union folks. Here in Canada CSIS (the Canadian version of the FBI/CIA) has often spied on CUPW (Canadian Union of Postal Workers) and Steelworkers union. Interesting article below that came through yesterday from the Guardian in the UK.


Gormley and Buckton named as special branch informers

Joe Gormley, the miners' leader who presided over two successful strikes against the government in the early 1970s, was named yesterday as a police special branch informer.

Ray Buckton, the long-term leader of Aslef, the train drivers' union widely derided as militant, was also a special branch informant, it was claimed yesterday.

The two men, both dead, are said to be among as many as 23 "senior trade unionists" who regularly passed information - unpaid - about their tactics and internal disputes to a secret unit of the special branch called the industrial section.

According to former special branch officers interviewed for the forthcoming BBC2 series, True Spies, the intelligence was shared with the security service, MI5, which at the time was also busy targeting union leaders, leftwing groups and civil rights organisations that it considered subversive.

As NUM president, Mr Gormley is remembered as a leader of the dispute which led to the three-day week and the downfall of Edward Heath's government in 1974.

Perhaps even more surprising is the claim that Mr Buckton was a special branch informant. He was always regarded as a leftwing stalwart.

"We found ourselves actually going to unions and talking to top union officials about what was going on," says Ken Day, a former Metropolitan police special branch officer. "One of them would be Joe Gormley." Another former officer, identified as Alan, says of Gormley: "He was a patriot and he was very wary and worried about the growth of militancy within his own union."

The activities of Jack Dromey, chairman of the strike committee at the Grunwick printing works in north London in the mid-1970s, were also monitored. Mr Dromey, national organiser of the transport union - and husband of Harriet Harman, the solicitor general - called the security services' activities "sinister and outrageous".

For a REALLY good book on spies in the labour movement check out Rebel Life: The life and times of Robert Gosden, revolutionary, mystic and labour spy by SFU Prof Mark Leier.

  • posted by Blackcat
  • Mon, Dec 30, 2002 4:33pm

CSIS secrecy


A federal court judge has thrown out a lawsuit against Canada's spy agency.

John Farrel filed a wrongful dismissal suit against the Canadian Secret Intelligence Service.

Farrell claims C-SIS hired him to intercept mail and when the agency fired him, it offered him money to keep quiet about his job.

However, C-SIS claims Farrell was never an employee but may have done some contract work.

The court ruled Farrell could not prove he worked for C-SIS, therefore he had no case.

Some of you may wonder what does this article have to do with unions or union reformers. The mail John Farrell was opening (in this article) was that of CUPW union members. Often the information gathered is supplied to management to keep track and control of outspoken and militant union members.

  • posted by remote viewer
  • Mon, Dec 30, 2002 5:17pm

That's extremely disturbing. I wonder if CSIS performs similar inspections on other union members and activists. Why could CUPW by the only union they keep tabs on?

  • posted by siggy
  • Mon, Dec 30, 2002 8:28pm


Often the information gathered is supplied to management to keep track and control of outspoken and militant union members.

Being the cynic I am, I don't find that hard to believe, but what makes it fact?

  • posted by Blackcat
  • Tue, Dec 31, 2002 8:58am


...but what makes it fact?

The part about CSIS spying on union members or the sharing of said info with the bosses?

The post above is related to articles based on research done by former Globe and Mail reporter Andrew Mitrovica which was published in a book called Covert Entry: Spies, Lies and Crimes Inside Canada's Secret Service (available at local libraries). Here is the CUPWs take on it. Last week the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada said they were going to open an investigation into the activities of CSIS.

As far as other unions go here is a link to a news article about the RCMP spying on the Steelworkers. I also have my FOI request reply for CSIS files on the IWW and my CUPE local which I'll post when I get a chance to scan it.

  • posted by unionnow
  • Wed, Jan 1, 2003 9:45pm

In the United States this type of spying on activists has been a long established fact. It goes much deeper than that. A few years ago the EU has charged that U. S. companies were using intell from our three letter departments to gain unfair market advantages. While hard to prove I see them on the edges of some of the battles we have fought over the years and in other battles I have read about.

Many three letter types are joined at the hip with the same criminal elements that run our unions. Intell can be very important and very useful in many ways. Get over the fact that there are rats at the highest and lowest levels of our union movement. The agencies work for the companies and they strongly desire to keep tabs on us. That is a fact of life that we cannot change. We can work around these problems by being aware of them.

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