Campaigners have condemned the lack of protection given by UK employment law to trade unionists falling victim of employer blacklists. They were speaking out after an 8 March written judgement from the first full-merits blacklisting Employment Tribunal, Dooley v Balfour Beatty, found in favour of the company.
Balfour Beatty did not deny using an illegally compiled blacklist to target bricklayer and union activist Mick Dooley. Instead it used documents it had made available to disgraced and now shutdown blacklisting organisation The Consulting Association in its tribunal submission.
While the judge, Mr BT Charlton, described blacklisting as “ghastly”, he found in favour of the construction giant because while Balfour Beatty has sought Mick Dooley’s dismissal, it wasn’t his actual employer – and the law only covers employees.
According to campaign group the Blacklist Support Group: “In an industry where sub-contracting and agency labour is widespread, this effectively allows the major multi-nationals such as Balfour Beatty, Sir Robert Mc Alpine, Skanska and Costain to blacklist workers who complain about safety or unpaid wages with impunity (as almost all labour is sub-contracted out).”
A spokesperson for the group said: “The Dooley decision and the new Blacklisting Regulations are basically a get out of jail free card for the major contractors. The blacklisters can hide behind the fact that they sub-contract most of the labour on major projects to escape any kind of legal responsibility.
“The new regulations will not make an ounce of difference to the likelihood of success for any blacklisted building worker seeking legal redress. If the new Regulations fail to make any difference for workers who can prove they have been blacklisted, what is their purpose?”
The Consulting Association “conspiracy” is a clear breach of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, he added. “The Blacklist Support Group send out an unambiguous message today: if our human rights cannot be upheld in the UK courts or from UK Regulations, then we will be taking our claims to the European Court of Human Rights. We have suffered for many years: we are prepared to fight all the way.”
Nearly 10 months after it was confirmed by the Information Commissioner that blacklisting in the construction industry was rife, something common knowledge for decades among trade union reps in the sector, new laws outlawing the practice are in preparation and on 24 November 23 of its victims featured on the blacklist will start their tribunal cases.
But for electricians such as Colin Trousdale (above) it doesn’t mean the scandal is over. The cover story on the 21 November issue of The Guardian’s Work section reports Trousdale, 51, now has copies of his file after the ICO investigation.
The six-page document opens in 2006, shortly before he launched an unsuccessful employment tribunal claim for being blacklisted. The last entry is October 2008.
However Trousdale says that since last December he’s only had eight weeks’ work.
“I can only think that because I’ve raised health and safety concerns – and remember this is an industry in which 53 people died last year – I’m affecting profits and they don’t want me doing that,” he told the paper.
According to the government, the likes of Trousdale should get better protection from new laws due before Christmas. Draft laws have already been the subject of a consultation and do not have to be debated and once published, can be signed into law by the business secretary, Lord Mandelson.
Continue reading “Blacklisting fallout continues”
Construction union UCATT will hold a demonstration in support of victims of blacklisting outside of Manchester Employment Tribunal on 24 November. The tribunal will be hearing the initial cases of blacklisted construction workers.
UCATT general secretary Alan Ritchie said: “Hundreds of construction workers had their lives ruined by the blacklisters. Many of them were forced out of the construction industry. This is the first opportunity workers have had to win justice from the construction companies who blacklisted them.”
The union says “much of the information contained on the blacklist related to a worker’s union membership. In particular workers who had taken on the role of a health and safety representative or had been a whistleblower on dangerous sites were targeted.”
George Guy, regional secretary for UCATT’s north-west region, said: “A large number of UCATT’s activists in the North West were blacklisted, these workers deserve justice. Everyone involved in blacklisting must be brought to book.”
The union says because of the absence of an explicit blacklisting law, Ian Kerr, the boss of blacklisting organisation The Consulting Association, was charged with data protection offences.
The former Special Branch officer pleaded guilty and was fined £5,000, a penalty described by the Information Commissioner Christopher Graham “as simply inappropriate”.
He added: “Here’s a blatant example of a business making a lot of money by trading in people’s data, which I believe parliament could stop if we activated a custodial sentence for the worst offenders.”
* Protest: 9.30am, Tuesday 24 November, Manchester Employment Tribunal, Alexandra House, 14-22 Parsonage, Manchester M3 2JA.
Fighting the Blacklist
Blacklisted workers are fighting back
7.00pm, Monday 23 November, Mechanic’s Institute, 103 Princess Street, Manchester M1 6DD (entrance Major Street)
Speakers from the Blacklist Support Group
This meeting is being organised on the eve of a Case Management Discussion at the Manchester Employment Tribunal, Parsonage Gardens, involving a large number of cases on Tuesday 24 November. All welcome.
For more information contact 07792 358697
Supported by Manchester TUC