The Consulting Association’s blacklisting operation, shutdown in February by the Information Commissioner for breaches of the Data Protection Act, was more organised than previously thought, according to confidential internal documents. Its constitution shows that it was “collectively” owned by the companies which paid an annual £3,000 subscription. Private investigator Ian Kerr ran the database. He was fined £5,000 in July for breaches of the Data Protection Act. However, proceedings were not instigated against the construction companies bankrolling the association.
The covert blacklisting organisation was managed by a chairman, chief executive and finance committee which met regularly. Companies wanting to join the operation had to “meet agreed criteria covering size of undertaking and management style,” The Guardian reports. One industry executive said the firms’ personnel directors gathered for annual meetings, adding: “Everybody in the industry knew about Kerr because it was long-standing. It was an open secret in the industry”. Continue reading “Britain: Construction firms “owned” blacklister”
Statement from the Blacklist Support Group
Major construction firms face deluge of blacklisting scandal legal cases
The Blacklist Support Group (a cross-union network representing blacklisted workers) issued a statement: “fullying supporting the actions of the Information Commissioner for today launching legal proceedings against 14 of the UK’s leading construction companies because of their involvement in illegal blacklisting of building workers because of their trade union membership and for raising safety concerns.”
6 of the 14 companies are divisions of Balfour Beatty. Continue reading “Britain: Major construction firms face deluge of blacklisting scandal legal cases”
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has served Enforcement Notices on 14 construction firms following breaches of the Data Protection Act. Some organisations paid thousands of pounds to unfairly obtain personal information about construction workers.
David Smith, Deputy Information Commissioner, said: “Fourteen firms paid for personal details about construction workers without those people knowing. The individuals were denied the opportunity of explaining or correcting what may have been inaccurate personal information about them and which could have jeopardised their employment prospects in the construction industry. We have used the maximum powers available to us and this enforcement action sends a strong signal that organisations must take the Data Protection Act seriously. Should the firms fail to adhere to the terms of the Notices they could face prosecution.” Continue reading “Britain: Trade in personal data jeopardised employment prospects”
Mick Holder of the Hazards Campaign has looked through the UK government’s proposed blacklisting law. It will be an improvement on nothing, he says, but has gaping holes that will be exploited by blacklisters.
The government’s main proposals are:
- to make it unlawful for organisations to refuse employment or sack individuals as a result of appearing on a blacklist;
- to make it unlawful for employment agencies to refuse to provide a service on the basis of appearing on a blacklist; and
- to enable individuals or unions to pursue compensation or solicit action against those who compile, distribute or use blacklists.
Holder has summarised what he believes are the key omissions and flaws in the proposed legislation. Continue reading “Britain: Better than nothing is not good enough”
The Consulting Association had been in operation at least 15 years when it was shutdown in February 2009 by privacy watchdog the Information Commissioner. But for workers concerned about health and safety on the job, this does not signal an end to blacklisting at work.
Campaigners – the word itself a red rag to a blacklister – believe the government’s proposed legislative solution is so riddled with flaws and complacent assumptions the practice will continue unseen and largely uncontrolled.
The first problem is the nature of blacklisting. No firm admits to operating a blacklist and no firm admits to using a blacklister’s services – even when caught red-handed.
Sir Robert McAlpine, a top contributor to the coffers of covert blacklisting organisation The Consulting Association, is denying publicly allegations it used the blacklist to refuse work to a former bricklayer.
In June, Mick Dooley – a long-time activist with construction union UCATT – launched a claim against McAlpine.
But a letter from the firm to Mick Dooley states: “Sir Robert McAlpine does not deny that it had dealings with the Consulting Association. However the company denies that it was provided with or operated any ‘blacklist’. Specifically we have not provided to or received from any party any information about yourself.” The firm spent over £26,000 in 2008 alone for Consulting Association information to vet potential employees, on top of a £3,000 annual subscription fee. Papers in Dooley’s file mentioned McAlpine’s explicitly. Continue reading “Britain: Not even a start”
Following the formation of the Blacklist Support Group, the following dates may be of interest:
* Fri 7 August , 7am Manchester @ Fiddlers Ferry – joining protest in support of Steve Acheson (still blacklisted by Electrical contractors to this day)
* Tues 29 Sept, 6.30pm Brighton @ Labour Party Conference Fringe Meeting with Shrewsbury 24 campaign
* Tues 6 October, 6pm Meeting @ House of Commons – hosted by John McDonnell MP; guest speakers to be confirmed
For more info or to arrange media interviews with blacklisted building workers please contact: blacklistSG@googlemail.com
Blacklist Support Group
An informal support network for building workers blacklisted for their trade union and safety activities has been established following a meeting last week at Westminster. Labour MP John McDonnell hosted the meeting at the House of Commons, at which a decision was made to set up the Blacklist Support Group.
A spokesperson for the new group said it would give workers a “coherent collective voice”. The group said it planned to investigate the prospects of a potential class action civil claim and cases under human rights legislation. It also aims to “expose the illegal practices of the major construction firms involved in blacklisting.”
The Blacklist Support Group wants action to be taken against the major site companies named by the Information Commissioner, who seized a database of over 3,200 illegally held records in a February raid on the industry-backed covert blacklisting group The Consulting Association.
Trade journal Construction News last week revealed that top contributors last year to the blacklisting organisation were Skanska and Sir Robert McAlpine, who were invoiced for 28,122 and £26,840 respectively by the blacklisting firm during 2008. This was on top of their £3,000 annual subscription fee. Balfour Beatty companies were the next biggest contributor, invoiced for £9,000. Individual searches of the blacklisting database cost £2.20.
A West Australian construction union official says he is prepared to go to jail in his continuing safety campaign for union members. Joe McDonald, the assistant secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) was fined Aus$10,000 (£4,880) by a Perth magistrate for unlawfully entering three building sites two years ago.
ABC News • Risks 415 • 18 July 2009
Unions have welcomed a government decision to push ahead with a ban on blacklisting of trade union activists.
Unite news release • UNISON news release • Usdaw news release • UCATT news release • Construction News • Risks 414 • 11 July 2009
The government has launched a consultation on new regulations that will make it unlawful for trade union members to be denied employment through secret blacklists.
Ministers say they plan to seek parliamentary approval for the regulations in the autumn and to implement them as soon as possible after that.
BIS news release and consultation [pdf] • TUC news release • The Guardian • Risks 414 • 11 July 2009