A top official of the professional body for human resources managers has found himself in the firing line after telling a conference that blacklisting of trade unionists is a “big fuss about very little.”
Mike Emmott, a top employee relations adviser with the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD), was a keynote speaker at the 50th anniversary conference of the Manchester Industrial Relations Society.
During the Q&A session he was questioned by GMB political officer Neil Smith over the CIPD’s inaction on blacklisting. In 2013 CIPD confirmed to parliament it was investigating 19 members linked to blacklisting, but it has so far failed to take any action.
Emmott claimed he did not know a great deal about the issue but then went on to describe the blacklisting scandal as a “big fuss about very little.” He said he found “union moral outrage over blacklisting, rather distasteful.”
There were audible gasps and an immediate rash of tweets from the audience. The conference then loudly applauded follow up questions that identified a number CIPD Fellows personally involved in blacklisting union members.
A flustered Emmott again responded by claiming to not know about the matter, even though the issue has been front page news in the media, including the CIPD’s own journal. He concluded by saying he would be happy to have the CIPD members accused of wrong doing as his neighbours.
Sir Brendan Barber, who heads the conciliation service ACAS and who followed Emmott on the platform, said he “disagreed”, adding “blacklisting is a major injustice that has not been resolved” that “raises huge issues about corporate culture and responsibility.”
Comments from blacklisted workers were more forthright still. Tony Jones, a Manchester electrician, was blacklisted for many years after raising concerns about electrical safety. He said: “Yes, it is a big fuss about nothing when you cannot feed and clothe your kids and don’t know why. To me that’s a form of child abuse.”
Steve Acheson, Blacklist Support Group (BSG) chair, said: “BSG has submitted a complaint to the CIPD for breaches of the code of ethical conduct but two years later not a single member of the professional body has faced any sanction. Nor has any senior manager involved in blacklisting been disciplined by their employer, most remain in post or have even been promoted to the Board.”
“The firms and CIPD have cried crocodile tears about blacklisting but the mask of hypocrisy worn by the HR profession has finally slipped. Blacklisting breaches our human rights. It is morally wrong. For any individual to face every day of his life, with no prospect of securing a legal right to employment because of a conspiracy is a complete crime.”
Neil Smith, the GMB political officer whose question sparked the row, said: “GMB will continue to campaign to name and shame those guilty of blacklisting and will work with other groups to get justice for those that were wronged. CIPD and others involved will be took to task no matter how long it takes.”
GMB national officer Justin Bowden said: “This senior CIPD employee has yet again let slip that some senior HR managers don’t actually think they did anything wrong when they were running the blacklist.” He added: “Mike Emmott is either an empty vessel or a total hypocrite.”