Trade unionists have branded as ‘a joke’ the award of a prestigious health and safety prize to construction firm Balfour Beatty. The company received the Sir George Earle Trophy from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) despite being notorious for sacking and blacklisting health and safety reps.
Balfour Beatty, in a citation for RoSPA’s top award, was “commended not only the way that safety representatives were pulled into practical problem-solving activities but also the company’s policy of valuing and acting on ideas from the workforce and its overall approach, which was not to punish or to stigmatise but always to encourage behaviour change by entering into dialogue and by celebrating success.”
Balfour Beatty’s Scottish and Southern managing director Bob Clark claimed: “The award recognises the ongoing effort, commitment and engagement of our employees in promoting a safe working culture.”
The award prompted an angry response from trade union safety campaigners. Blacklist Support Group spokesperson Steve Kelly said: “At first I thought this was a joke. Balfour Beatty are the construction company with the worst record of sacking and blacklisting safety representatives in the entire industry. To be praised for the way they treat their safety representatives is offensive.”
Balfour Beatty was a major contributor to The Consulting Association, the illegal blacklisting organisation that targeted trade union safety activists. The construction giant received an enforcement notice from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for breaches of the Data Protection Act and has been found by employment tribunals to have blacklisted workers.
RMT regional organiser Steve Hedley urged the government to launch a public inquiry into the blacklisting “scandal.” He told the Morning Star: “This is reward for appalling behaviour,” adding that firms involved in the blacklist “should be levied with a fine which should be distributed amongst blacklisted workers.”
The Consulting Association was shut down by ICO. Its former head Ian Kerr was prosecuted in 2009 and fined £5,000 for breaches of the Data Protection Act.