Commons committee says ‘blacklist the blacklisters’

Blacklisting firms jeopardise workplace safety, should be banned from publicly funded contracts and their victims should be compensated, MPs have said.  The House of Commons Scottish Affairs Select Committee also paid tribute to the activists of the Blacklisting Support Group for exposing the injustice.

The damning 14 March 2014 report of the committee’s investigation into the blacklisting scandal says that just ending blacklisting is not enough. The committee says that firms caught blacklisting must undertake a process of “self-cleaning,” including an admission of guilt, paying full compensation and taking other appropriate remedial steps.

The MPs argue that monitoring and reporting procedures for health and safety, as well as a commitment to direct employment should be adopted as standard throughout for all publicly funded projects. The report notes: “There is a clear link between blacklisting and poor health and safety standards in the construction industry. Workers must be free to voice concerns about health and safety on sites, and union shop stewards play a key role in this.

“Evidence to our inquiry has clearly demonstrated that with union membership comes the risk of being blacklisted, particularly if the union member in question is responsible for raising health and safety issues with clients/contractors. As such we are concerned that protecting workers against blacklisting should not begin and end at the procurement and recruitment stage.

“There must be provisions in place to allow reporting of health and safety concerns, and processes to encourage workers to make use of these provisions and encourage an open culture.”

The report concludes: “It is essential that workers feel that they are able to report potentially life threatening health and safety concerns without fear. Adequate reporting systems are a vital part of preventing the threat to workers of blacklisting and ensuring a robust health and safety culture.”

Ian Davidson MP, chair of the select committee, said: “Had these companies not been caught, blacklisting would still be happening, and indeed we have heard evidence that it is still going on in some areas.

“Although blacklisting is illegal now, it is not enough to just end the practice. Reparations must be made, and steps must be taken so that we are pro-actively preventing these practices – and the health and safety problems they lead to – rather than just stopping it when it happens. Companies that are caught blacklisting now, or do not make the proper reparations, or do not apply agreed standards of practice in their contracts, should be ‘blacklisted’ themselves and barred from obtaining any publicly funded work.

“It is impossible to fully quantify the damage that may have been done to people’s careers and livelihoods, and to their families, as well as to health and safety on site, by these practices, but restitution must be made.

“It must not be left just to the companies themselves to determine what this should be, but it must be agreed after negotiations with the relevant trade unions and representatives of blacklisted workers. It must also be applied to all the victims of blacklisting who have yet to be identified, and where the victim has died, compensation must go to their families.

The committee chair paid tribute “to the activists of the Blacklist Support Group, who have fought over a long number of years to maintain this issue in the public eye and to seek recognition for the injustices experienced by so many working people.”

Steve Acheson, chair of the Blacklist Support Group said: “I would like to put on record, the heart felt appreciation of all blacklisted workers for the tremendous work done by MPs on the Scottish Affairs Select Committee. Honest hard working men and women have been denied the opportunity to provide for their families because we were members of a trade union or dared to raise concerns about health and safety on a building site.

“The companies involved have shown no contrition and even less recompense for their actions, most of the directors responsible for blacklisting are still in post. The MPs call for no publicly funded contracts for blacklisting firms may now concentrate their minds.”

He added: “This report vindicates the years of tireless campaigning that many trade unionists and supporters have carried out not just over the past five years since the secret blacklist was discovered but over decades. The report barely lifts the lid on this evil conspiracy and we will not stop our campaign until a fully independent public inquiry into all of the aspects of blacklisting are exposed and the guilty brought to justice.”

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