Blacklisted reps in European breakthrough

UK anti-blacklisting campaigners believe a Europe-wide law banning the practice has moved a step closer, after a top level meeting with European officials and politicians.

A delegation of blacklisted trade unionists and safety representatives from the Blacklist Support Group held private talks in Brussels last week with EU commissioner for employment, social affairs and inclusion László Andor.

The meeting was facilitated by Labour MEPs Stephen Hughes and Glenis Willmott and the delegation said that the “genuinely positive response from Commissioner Andor exceeded all our expectations.”

Mr Andor was given documentary evidence from victimised union reps Brian Higgins, Steve Acheson and Dave Smith. Each presented secret blacklist files kept about their activities as union safety reps in the British construction industry.

The files were compiled by the now defunct covert blacklisting outfit The Consulting Association, closed down the Information Commissioner’s Office. They contain damning evidence that major multinational building firms systematically dismissed and victimised workers who raised concerns about health and safety issues or unpaid wages.

Steve Acheson, a blacklisted electrician and secretary of the Manchester contracting branch of UNITE, said: “We have been victimised by these firms just because we have stood up for safety issues; a cabin to dry wet clothes, asbestos, holiday pay, basic electrical checks.

“For many of us this conspiracy has meant years on the dole and family strains. But we are not just fighting for ourselves. This evil practice is almost certainly taking place in other industries and in other countries across Europe.

“I refuse to sit in my front room at home and turn into an old man, instead I choose to campaign on behalf of young workers in Poland, Spain, Greece, Ireland and any workers in Europe who are prepared to stand up for their basic human rights.”

Commenting after the meeting, MEP Stephen Hughes said: “The meeting was very positive and the delegation received a fair hearing. Mr Andor said he was very concerned at reports that the practice was continuing. Blacklisting is a genuine issue which affects all member states and I will work with colleagues to address this serious concern and apply parliamentary pressure to trigger action.”

Mr Hughes, who is a senior figure in European Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs committee, added: “This meeting is the beginning, not the end, of a process. Once we have planted the seed with Commissioner Andor, we will follow up with action in the European Parliament’s employment committee and the full parliament.”

Regulations banning blacklisting came into force in the UK last year but have been criticised by unions, employment law experts and campaigners as too lax and with two few rights of redress for affected individuals. There is no specific EU-wide legislation against blacklisting of individuals for safety reasons.

The Blacklist Support Group says the construction companies identified by the Information Commissioner’s Office as guilty of blacklisting include many multinationals.

These include Swedish firm Skanska, Bam from the Netherlands, Vinci from France, Ireland’s Laing O’Rourke and UK based multinationals including Sir Robert McAlpine, Balfour Beatty, Kier, Costain and Carillion (UK).