Britain’s blacklisting scandal, which saw thousands of construction union reps victimised or denied work for raising safety concerns, provides ‘clear proof’ of the dangers posed by the government’s Trade Union Bill.
TUC head of safety, Hugh Robertson, says the first tranche of compensation settlements – amounting to £5.6m shared between 71 workers – “are no recompense for the thousands of ruined lives that resulted from the illegal actions of these companies, but they do show the importance of being in a union.”
Writing in the Left Foot Forward blog, he noted: “Without the support that the GMB, Unite and UCATT gave and the work they did with the incredible Blacklist Support Group, the workers would have either received nothing, or, at the very least, some token amount.” He said more cases were due before the High Court in May, but added: “Of course it is more than just about money.
The unions also want to protect future workers, which is why they are pushing for a full inquiry into blacklisting and strong laws to make sure that this scandal is never repeated. The Trade Union Bill is an attempt to stop us doing that by making it harder for us to recruit and represent members, campaign, and strike.”
He warned that the Bill would give the Certification Officer new powers to investigate membership records, even where no complaints have been made. “This all raises concerns about the confidentiality of union membership and activism,” Robertson notes.
“The blacklisting scandal is clear proof of why we need trade unions. Workers need them to ensure they are protected and, when things go wrong, to fight for their rights against employers, through the courts and to campaign for action from governments.