New blacklisting regulations “too weak”

Construction union UCATT has said it is “bitterly disappointed” with the new blacklisting regulations, warning the measures are so weak that they will not prevent blacklisting from occurring.

Employment relations minister Lord Young  announced the new measures, which came into effect on 2 March. He said: “Blacklisting someone because they are a member of a trade union is underhand, unfair and blights people’s lives.

“The new regulations outlaw the compilation, dissemination and use of blacklists. They have been designed to build on existing protections in the area, which are found in trade union and data protection law, Good employers who operate fair and open vetting processes have nothing to fear from these regulations.” He added: “I am confident that this new piece of legislation will bring to an end the disreputable practice of blacklisting once and for all.”

The regulations:
* make it unlawful for organisations to refuse employment or sack individuals as a result of appearing on a blacklist;
* make it unlawful for employment agencies to refuse to provide a service on the basis of an individual appearing on a blacklist; and
* enable individuals or unions to pursue compensation or solicit action against those who compile, distribute or use blacklists. 

However, Alan Ritchie, general secretary of UCATT, said these measures were insufficient, and said the government had ignored its call for the regulations to be beefed up. “Fortunately for Lord Young blacklisting doesn’t occur in the House of Lords but ordinary construction workers are not so privileged,” he said.

UCATT argued that the regulations were deficient because they did not make blacklisting a specific criminal offence and only prevented workers from being blacklisted for undertaking, the narrowly defined, “trade union activities”.

The union adds that the regulations also fail to grant an automatic right to compensation for any worker who discovers that they have been blacklisted. If a blacklist is discovered workers will not be automatically told that they had been blacklisted.

Mr Ritchie said: “Cynical construction employers will recognise the weakness of the regulations and could continue to blacklist workers. They know that they are unlikely to get caught and if they do they will merely get a slap on the wrist. UCATT will continue to campaign to have the regulations overhauled so that they are truly effective in stamping out this despicable practice once and for all.”

In March 2009, the Information Commissioner reported that 40 construction companies had subscribed to a database used to vet construction workers, which has now been closed under data protection law.  On 16 July last year, Ian Kerr, a former Special Branch officer and the individual who operated the database, was fined £5,000 at Knutsford Crown Court for committing a criminal offence under data protection law.

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One Comment

  1. Dave
    Posted 6 April, 2010 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    The worth of the new regulations are surely be based upon whether they would make it any better for the workers who are currently caught up in the blacklisting scandal.

    Let’s leave aside the fact that there is no retrospective element to cover those workers on the Consulting Association illegal database. Even if these new regulations were in place back in 1999 or 2003, those workers currently taking ET claims would still be no better off – because everything in the reg’s is about establishing an employer:employee relationship between the blacklisted workers and the blacklisting company.

    It is multi-national companies who are responsible for the blacklisting but they are more and more out-sourcing all of their work. This has been the case for decades in construction but casualisation is now sweeping across the rest of the economy.

    So if a safety rep is victimised and blacklisted by a multi-national, so long as they are not the direct employer, the company still gets away scot-free. The new Reg’s do not change that problem out bit. They also specifically exclude workers walk off the job if something is unsafe or participate in an informal protest about safety (because only “official” union activity is covered).

    The new Reg’s are obviously a step in the right direction but lets not get carried away – they are primarily window dressing that does not upset business too much.

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