Blacklist the Blacklisters, say Scottish Affairs Committee

14 March 2014

Construction firms that blacklist, or do not make proper reparations for past blacklisting, should be denied public contracts.

In a report on blacklisting in employment, Parliament’s Scottish Affairs Committee sets out how firms that have been caught blacklisting can make amends and how best practice can be taken forward to ensure that blacklisting is not allowed to reoccur. It also says any firms that do not take the appropriate steps should be barred from gaining any publicly funding work.

The Committee’s previous report on blacklisting demonstrated the existence of an organised conspiracy by some construction firms to deny employment to those workers seen as troublemakers, often because of their pursuit of trade union and health and safety issues.

Ending blacklisting is not enough

The Committee says that just ending blacklisting is not enough. Firms that have been caught blacklisting must undertake a process of ‘self-cleaning’, including an admission of guilt, paying full compensation and taking other appropriate remedial steps.  It is key that the levels of restitution should not be solely for the companies themselves to determine, but must be agreed after negotiations with the relevant trade unions and representatives of blacklisted workers. There is a further issue in that many of those who were blacklisted have not yet been contacted and made aware of their status, and the Committee is still investigating ways in which 100% notification can be achieved.

Going forward, a new framework of standards for contracts should be developed which would be applied to all publicly funded work.  The Committee has identified the contracts agreed between trade unions and EDF for the construction of its Hinkley Point C nuclear power station as being best practice for the industry. In particular the mechanisms they have developed for ongoing monitoring and reporting procedures for health and safety, as well as the commitment to direct employment and the establishment of an employment brokerage for all jobs on the site, should be adopted as standard throughout the public sector and for all publicly funded projects.

Chair's comments

Ian Davison MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

“Had these companies not been caught, blacklisting would still be happening, and indeed we have heard evidence that it is still going on in some areas. Although blacklisting is illegal now, it is not enough to just end the practice. Reparations must be made, and steps must be taken so that we are pro-actively preventing these practices -  and the health and safety problems they lead to - rather than just stopping it when it happens. Companies that are caught blacklisting now, or do not make the proper reparations, or do not apply agreed standards of practice in their contracts, should be "blacklisted" themselves and barred from obtaining any publicly funded work.

It is impossible to fully quantify the damage that may have been done to people’s careers and livelihoods, and to their families, as well as to health and safety on site, by these practices, but restitution must be made. It must not be left just to the companies themselves to determine what this should be, but it must be agreed after negotiations with the relevant trade unions and representatives of blacklisted workers. It must also be applied to all the victims of blacklisting who have yet to be identified, and where the victim has died, compensation must go to their families.

We want to pay tribute to both the Welsh Government, who have taken a clear and unequivocal ethical stance on this issue and provided a political lead which many other bodies in the public sector have subsequently followed, and to the activists of the Blacklisting Support Group, who have fought over a long number of years to maintain this issue in the public eye and to seek recognition for the injustices experienced by so many working people.

The role of Governments, UK, devolved and local, is absolutely crucial in encouraging and enforcing best practise and in driving out blacklisting. We will now be writing to the Coalition government , to the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments and to local authority associations, urging them to adopt our proposals and to use their financial power to ensure that  blacklisting is abolished,  direct employment is made mandatory and that health and safety is given ever greater priority.”

Further information

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