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Blacklisting: the scandal continues

Sarah Glenister 30/1/13

It is shameful that so little has been done to acknowledge the scandal of blacklisting and scandalous that even less has been done to compensate those who have suffered from this vile practice. Last week the Institute of Employment Rights released a comprehensive resource document on blacklisting.

IER publication - Ruined Lives: Blacklisting in the Construction IndustryLast week saw an opposition Parliamentary debate on blacklisting in the construction industry which called for an immediate investigation into the extent of the practice and an assurance “that appropriate and effective sanctions are in place to tackle and prevent blacklisting”.

During the debate, many passionate speeches were heard from Labour MPs, some of whom have themselves been the victims of blacklisting, and many of whom know of constituents who have had their livelihoods snatched away from them by the practice.

With evidence coming to light through the Scottish Affairs Committee's Inquiry that the police and the Security Service colluded with the activities of blacklisters in the construction industry, and that blacklisting practices have been rife in public works, including the construction of the Olympic Park, it was also argued that a Leveson-style inquiry must go ahead. Blacklisting has been given important exposure by the Scottish Parliament and we must congratulate MSPs for their determination in forcing this issue up the political agenda.

But the practice of blacklisting is not restricted to the UK alone. The construction companies identified as participating in the blacklisting operation include household names based and operating across Europe including: Skanska (Sweden), Bam (Netherlands), Vinci (France), Laing O’Rourke (Ireland), Sir Robert McAlpine, Balfour Beatty, Kier, Costain, Carillion (UK) to name but a few. It is important therefore that European wide action is taken in response.

The Blacklist Support Group and Professor Keith Ewing of the Institute of Employment Rights fought hard to bring blacklisting to the attention of the EU Commissioner in 2011 and there is now much work taking place at the European level with Stephen Hughes MEP and Glenis Willmott MEP taking up the issue in the European Parliament.

In the light of recent evidence and based on the information gathered in Scotland, EU and now at Westminster, we believe the current blacklisting Regulations now need to be strengthened in the following ways:

  1. There should be a positive right not to be blacklisted and workers who find themselves on a blacklist should have an automatic right to compensation without the burden of proof being placed upon them.
  2. A retroactive compensation scheme should be established to compensate blacklisted workers.
  3. Protection against blacklisting should be extended to include “trade union related activities”.
  4. Blacklisting should be a criminal offence and companies who make use of blacklists should be open to criminal prosecution.
  5. The government’s recently announced Advisory Council for the Construction Industry should be a tripartite body.

Last week the Institute of Employment Rights released a comprehensive resource on blacklisting which looks at the historical practice, Government responses, the legal context, evidence from various investigations and case studies. This resource is free and we encourage you to share it widely.



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