‘Do not touch’ – the covert database that kept union activists out of work
For years, 66-year-old Ian Kerr has run his business quietly in a first-floor office in the Worcestershire town of Droitwich. There was no nameplate for his premises, which was protected by a green door, and workers in the neighbouring shops either failed to notice him or thought he was a little mysterious.
“Oh yes, Ian,” said one. “He has been there for years. We never really knew what he does – probably works for MI5 or something.”
Kerr did not work for the security services, but the world he operated in was certainly a private one, and it can be exposed today because of an investigation by the office of the information commissioner, Richard Thomas.
Thomas, whose watchdog is entrusted with maintaining the public’s privacy, believes Kerr has spent 15 years compiling and maintaining a huge database on 3,200 workers from around the country.
Details of workers’ trade union activities and past employment conduct were recorded on cards.
One individual was said to be a “poor timekeeper, will cause trouble, strong TU [trade union]”. Another card referred to a member of the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians as “Ucatt … very bad news”.
A member of the Transport and General Workers Union was described as “a sleeper and should be watched”. One entry on a worker simply said: “Do not touch !”