Environmental activists who were on a construction industry blacklist have spoken out in support of a High Court case against the companies involved. On 14 May 2015, the blacklisting group litigation – equivalent to a US style class-action – returns to the High Court with 500 blacklisted workers taking on over 40 of the UK’s largest construction companies.
The environmental activists, who say their own quest for answers and for justice has been stymied by the ‘incompetence’ of the Information Commissioner’s Office, are backing the Blacklist Support Group’s campaign for justice, including legal action and protests. The latest action comes this week, as the court action resumes at the Royal Courts of Justice.
Blacklist Support Group Protest
9:30am Thursday 14 May
Royal Courts of Justice
The illegal system run by the Consulting Association was used by most of the big names in construction until it was exposed in 2009. More than 3,200 people had files detailing their instances of political activity, raising of health and safety concerns or trade union involvement. Information in the files was provided by the companies themselves as well as police. Whilst most were actual construction workers, with some having dossiers running to nearly 50 pages of personal details, over 200 environmental activists – known as the ‘greenlist’ – also had files.
When the Information Commissioner’s Office raided the Consulting Association in 2009 they only seized an index list of greenlist files, the files themselves were destroyed. This meant there is no evidence of what was in the files or which ones had been used to deny work to any individual, and so greenlisters’ lawyers advised against continuing the legal case.
Several of the companies who used the list set up a compensation scheme, in a bid to head off potentially far more expensive court settlements. It gives £4,000 to anyone who was on the list, more if they can show their files were used. It is capped at £100,000. With some workers denied a living for a decade or more, the maximum payout doesn’t even cover loss of earnings for many, let alone any interest of damages. Many of them, co-ordinated by the Blacklist Support Group, are boycotting the derisory compensation offer and are fighting on in the courts.
But for the greenlisters, the legal fight seems over. With no obvious alternative cause of redress, some have accepted the scheme’s payouts and made donations to the Blacklist Support Group.
A statement from greenlist activists provided to the Blacklist Support Group noted: “Thanks to the incompetence of the Information Commissioner’s Office, only a fraction of the files were seized. Greenlisters only have a list of whose files existed. Had ours not been among those lost, we would have the chance to fight our legal case properly and to seek more answers. It was a breach of our right to privacy, to freedom of association, and our right to a unionised, safe workplace. But this paltry sum is the best we can hope for.
“Most of us were on the list because our details had been passed from brushes with the law in environmental protests. It seems likely that police were involved in supplying this information, and we note that the Independent Police Complaints Commission admit blacklist files contained information that can only have come – illegally – from police or security services. They worked not to uphold the law but in order to uphold corporate profit.
“Even if greenlisters did not suffer financial hardship from being on the list, that was not through want of trying on the part of the police and blacklisters. More than that the 3,000 construction workers suffered huge hardship over decades. This was a colossal conspiracy to invade people’s personal lives, the working class equivalent of phone hacking. We stand in solidarity with the blacklisted construction workers. We are proud to donate funds from the wrongdoers to the fightback against them. We hope it can help their court case get the truth and justice that has been denied to us.”
Dave Smith, the secretary of the Blacklist Support Group, commented: “Corporate and state surveillance on peaceful protesters is a national scandal. The UK secret political police units considered trade unions to be the ‘enemy within’ and targeted UK citizens participating in democratic campaigns; routinely passing intelligence onto big business. The Blacklist Support Group is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with social justice activists and pledge our continued support for those campaigning for a full public inquiry into the anti-democratic conspiracy carried out by multinational corporations and the security services.”
An undercover police unit that monitored political groups over a 40 year period gathered intelligence on members of at least five trade unions, a whistleblower has revealed.
Former undercover police officer Peter Francis said he spent four years spying on political activists.
A statement from Francis was delivered to a packed 12 March meeting in parliament that marked the launch of a new book about the blacklisting of thousands of workers by multinational construction firms. The book, ‘Blacklisted’, presents evidence of how police shared information about trade unionists with the blacklisters. Francis has revealed how he believes that he personally collected some of the intelligence that was stored on the blacklisting files held by industry-financed covert blacklister the Consulting Association.
Francis, in a statement read out by Labour MP John McDonnell, said the trade unionists spied on were members of UNISON, FBU, CWU, NUT and the students’ union NUS.
Francis promised to give evidence to the public inquiry into undercover policing announced earlier that day by home secretary Theresa May. The inquiry, which will be led by Lord Justice Pitchford, will have the power to compel witnesses to give evidence.
The union-backed Blacklist Support Group (BSG) demanded “that blacklisting is part of the inquiry,” adding “the full remit should only be decided after consultation with the victims of police spying. BSG also support the call for Peter Francis and other police whistleblowers to be exempted from the Official Secrets Act (OSA) when they give evidence in court or in any public inquiry. The OSA is being used by the police in order to cover up the scandal.” An online petition is backing up the call.
Unions CWU, GMB and UCATT all called for blacklisting of trade unionists to be included in the scope of the Pitchford inquiry.
The ‘Blacklisted’ book, authored by BSG founder member Dave Smith and investigative journalist Phil Chamberlain, has attracted widespread press coverage, including national papers the Guardian and the Mirror, and is rapidly becoming a labour movement and civil rights ‘must read’.
A new book, ‘Blacklisted: the secret war between big business and trade union activists’, delivers a searing indictment of the collusion between the state and the construction industry that saw thousands blacklisted.
Authors Dave Smith – a founder-member of the Blacklist Support Group – and investigative journalist Phil Chamberlain reveal how objecting to deadly working conditions could get you thrown out of work for good. The book demonstrates how only creative grassroots organising exposed the blacklisters and their cash-dispensing construction cronies. It also reveals this isn’t yesterday’s problem; this life-wrecking human rights scandal persists to this day.
GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: “This book lifts the lid on blacklisting and on the decades of denials, lies and deceit by construction employers over the shameful treatment and damage to thousands of workers.” Mick Cash, general secretary of the rail union RMT, said the book is “a tribute to those who have had the sheer guts and determination to fight on for years to drag the blacklisting scandal into the spotlight.” Guardian journalist Rob Evans said it “could turn out be one of the most important books of 2015.”
A top official of the professional body for human resources managers has found himself in the firing line after telling a conference that blacklisting of trade unionists is a “big fuss about very little.”
Mike Emmott, a top employee relations adviser with the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD), was a keynote speaker at the 50th anniversary conference of the Manchester Industrial Relations Society.
During the Q&A session he was questioned by GMB political officer Neil Smith over the CIPD’s inaction on blacklisting. In 2013 CIPD confirmed to parliament it was investigating 19 members linked to blacklisting, but it has so far failed to take any action.
Emmott claimed he did not know a great deal about the issue but then went on to describe the blacklisting scandal as a “big fuss about very little.” He said he found “union moral outrage over blacklisting, rather distasteful.”
There were audible gasps and an immediate rash of tweets from the audience. The conference then loudly applauded follow up questions that identified a number CIPD Fellows personally involved in blacklisting union members.
A flustered Emmott again responded by claiming to not know about the matter, even though the issue has been front page news in the media, including the CIPD’s own journal. He concluded by saying he would be happy to have the CIPD members accused of wrong doing as his neighbours.
Sir Brendan Barber, who heads the conciliation service ACAS and who followed Emmott on the platform, said he “disagreed”, adding “blacklisting is a major injustice that has not been resolved” that “raises huge issues about corporate culture and responsibility.”
Comments from blacklisted workers were more forthright still. Tony Jones, a Manchester electrician, was blacklisted for many years after raising concerns about electrical safety. He said: “Yes, it is a big fuss about nothing when you cannot feed and clothe your kids and don’t know why. To me that’s a form of child abuse.”
Steve Acheson, Blacklist Support Group (BSG) chair, said: “BSG has submitted a complaint to the CIPD for breaches of the code of ethical conduct but two years later not a single member of the professional body has faced any sanction. Nor has any senior manager involved in blacklisting been disciplined by their employer, most remain in post or have even been promoted to the Board.”
“The firms and CIPD have cried crocodile tears about blacklisting but the mask of hypocrisy worn by the HR profession has finally slipped. Blacklisting breaches our human rights. It is morally wrong. For any individual to face every day of his life, with no prospect of securing a legal right to employment because of a conspiracy is a complete crime.”
Neil Smith, the GMB political officer whose question sparked the row, said: “GMB will continue to campaign to name and shame those guilty of blacklisting and will work with other groups to get justice for those that were wronged. CIPD and others involved will be took to task no matter how long it takes.”
GMB national officer Justin Bowden said: “This senior CIPD employee has yet again let slip that some senior HR managers don’t actually think they did anything wrong when they were running the blacklist.” He added: “Mike Emmott is either an empty vessel or a total hypocrite.”
Campaigners against the construction industry blacklist have reacted with anger after the Metropolitan Police (MPS) refused to ‘neither confirm nor deny’ (NCND) whether the Blacklist Support Group has been the subject of surveillance by undercover police units including Special Branch.
The statement from the MPS came in a 9 October 2014 written response to a Freedom of Information request by investigative journalist Phil Chamberlain. He had requested “copies of any files held by the Metropolitan Police (including Special Branch) on the organisation called the Blacklist Support Group. This is a group campaigning for the rights of those refused work because of their union activities.”
MPS responded that it was in the “public interest” for them to refuse to “confirm or deny in order to safeguard national security” the existence of files on the Blacklist Support Group. It did though admit it held information that “some information is held that may ‘relate’ to the Blacklist Support Group.”
It would be highly unlikely there was not a paper trail at the MPS HQ. A Select Committee investigation found that the undercover police unit known as the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (NETCU) attended and gave powerpoint presentations to meetings of the Consulting Association blacklisting organisation. The head of the covert blacklisting organisation, which was financed and controlled by major construction companies, was prosecuted for holding illegally files on construction workers. Construction firms paid on a case-by-case basis for frequently inaccurate information contained in these files.
It was Chamberlain’s investigative work that led to a raid by the Information Commissioner’s Office on the Consulting Association, closing it down in 2009.
The MPS response notes there was a pre-agreed police line on queries about the Consulting Association, spelled out in the FOI response. “IF ASKED: is it true that NETCU shared information with the Consulting Association? We do not discuss matters of intelligence.”
Supt Steve Pearl, who ran NECTU, is now a director at Agenda Security Services, which provides employment vetting services. His former boss, ex-Assistant Chief Constable Anton Setchell, who was the senior police officer in charge of the UK police domestic extremism machinery between 2004 and 2010, is currently head of global security at Laing O’Rourke – one of the construction companies subscribing to the Consulting Association.
MPS could in these circumstances have confirmed or denied the existence of files on the Blacklist Support Group. The Freedom of Information Act allows this where the response would “inform issues that are currently the subject of public debate in relation to government surveillance and improve the quality and accuracy of public debate, which may otherwise be steeped in rumour and speculation.”
Instead MPS chose to adopt a NCND defence. Given the huge public interest in the undercover police surveillance of women activists deliberately targeted by officers from the Special Demonstration Squad and other secret political police units, it seems a difficult decision to justify. The NCND position adopted by the MPS in relation to the women activists was defeated in the High Court in September. Some of the women activists currently suing the Metropolitan Police themselves appear on the Consulting Association blacklist.
A number of blacklist activists, including Blacklist Support Group secretary Dave Smith, have been refused copies of their own personal police files, with MPS arguing that providing the documents may jeopardise ongoing criminal investigations.
Responding to the Met Police’s latest refusal to come clean, Smith said: “It is without doubt that the police and security services are spying on trade unionists fighting for justice on the issue of blacklisting. They have colluded with big business to deliberately target trade unionism over decades. Shrewsbury, Orgreave, blacklisting; the list goes on and on. The refusal to provide any information whatsoever smacks of an establishment cover-up. Blacklisting is no longer an industrial relations issue: it is a human rights conspiracy.”
Lawyers working for the Blacklist Support Group have submitted a complaint to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) about the role of the police in blacklisting. Despite accusations of an establishment cover-up, even the police have been forced to admit the flow of information was not purely one way.
Sarah McSherry, a solicitor from Imran Khan and Partners, said: “While correspondence from the police in relation to this complaint continually raises concerns about the quality of their investigation, it is interesting to note that they confirm that they have identified a potential ‘flow of information between Special Branch and the construction industry’.”
A blacklisting group litigation case returns to the Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday 16 October.
Prime Minister David Cameron was recently interviewed by award winning journalist Adam Smith – author of ‘Obama and Me’ – and was asked about the blacklisting in the construction industry. The exchange was illuminating.
Adam Smith “With the blacklisting scandal affecting over 3,000 people up and down the country is it not time for a public inquiry?”
David Cameron “What is needed to make sure we exercise the legislation that is now in place, this is something that happened under the last government and now there is now legislation in place to stop illegal blacklisting.”
Adam Smith “So you don’t think there should be a public inquiry?”
David Cameron “As I say I think enforcing the law that we have now is the most important thing.”
Commenting on this confirmation the prime minister is personally opposed to a blacklisting public inquiry, Blacklist Support Group secretary Dave Smith said: “Blacklisting is a national scandal akin to McCarthyism. There is documentary proof of police and security services collusion with the Consulting Association and lawyers for the UK government have recently admitted that blacklisting was a breach of human rights.
“Blacklisting of trade unionists is no longer an industrial relations issue; it is a major human rights conspiracy between multinational corporations and the state. Despite all this, David Cameron has said ‘no’ to a public inquiry.”
Dave Smith added: “Blacklisting is working class phone-hacking. Only a fully independent public inquiry will get to the truth of the blacklisting human rights scandal and expose all the corporate and state spying on trade unionists who raised concerns about safety issues: UK citizens participating in perfectly peaceful democratic activities.
“It is not surprising that a Conservative prime minister funded by big business does not want a public inquiry. But that is what blacklisted workers, their unions and the TUC are calling for.
“Ed Miliband could demonstrate he supports working people against predatory capitalism by committing a future Labour government to a full public inquiry into blacklisting with be an election pledge in the manifesto.”
Bosses from blacklist companies were humiliated during a packed 16 July 2014 witness session for a parliamentary Select Committee when MPs repeatedly accused them of setting out to “deliberately mislead parliament”.
The Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation into blacklisting heard evidence from Nick Pollard, chief executive of Balfour Beatty, Andrew Ridley-Barker, managing director of Vinci Construction and Callum Tuckett, group finance and commercial director at Laing O’Rourke plus Richard Slaven, partner at Pinsent mason solicitors and Richard Duke from the PR company Grayling.
Conservative MP Simon Reevell condemned the letter sent by the industry’s hired spin doctor Richard Dukes on behalf of the blacklist compensation scheme which he said was “intended to mislead every member of parliament” by claiming falsely that unions and representatives of blacklisted workers supported the scheme.
Labour MP Jim McGovern told the industry bosses point blankly that they had “misled this committee and misled parliament.”
MPs identified that Vinci, Laing O’Rourke and Balfour Beatty companies had paid in excess of £335,000 to the Consulting Association which equated to approximately 200,000 name checks on construction workers. 600 workers had either been denied employment or had personal information information added to the blacklist database by the 3 firms or their predecessor companies.
The construction bosses were continually ridiculed and interrupted by Labour, Liberal and Conservative MPs alike who refused to accepted their grovelling apologies for their role in the Consulting Association blacklisting scandal with Select Committee chair Ian Davidson accusing the scheme of being “purely damage limitation” rather than a genuine desire to show “repentance.”
The levels of compensation being offered by the scheme were also forensically taken apart by MPs and Richard Slaven, partner at law firm Pinsent Mason was forced to admit that he could not quote a single authority to justify the pitifully low figures being offered by the blacklist firms who MPs identified as having a combined annual turnover of £34 billion. Slaven was accused of being “not exactly razor sharp” by former barrister Simon Reevell.
The MPs suggested a number of changes that the firms said they would go back and consider including extending the schemes period to three years to allow for the High Court trial to conclude before workers needed to make a decision.
Ian Davidson again repeated his suggestion that the compensation scheme that had been condemned by the Blacklist Support Group and trade unions should exist to provide “interim damages” which would be increased once the High Court trial finished. The MPs stated that unless the scheme was drastically improved and the firms showed real attempts to clean up their acts that they should “be denied access to future public contracts.”
Cullum McAlpine was the leader of a shadowy band of construction industry grandees that owned and bankrolled a covert operation that illegally blacklisted union safety activists. He never faced charges – until the Blacklist Support Group turned up at the London HQ of Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd with an arrest warrant.
Read the full Hazards magazine report.
On 1February 2014, a National Rank and File meeting was held in Glasgow. One of the guest speakers was Louise Taggart from the Scottish Hazards and FACK (Families Against Corporate Killers) campaigns who gave a really moving health and safety presentation around fatalities in the workplace. She spoke in detail about her own personal experience of when her brother who was an electrician was electrocuted and killed at his work and how it affected her family.
I don’t think that there was anyone in the room, full of tough construction workers, that wasn’t moved by Louise’s experience. This has inspired me to write this article about my own experience of a fatal industrial accident and how it has affected me and my family for almost 30 years.
My story starts way back on 5 July 1984, a really hot summer’s day, but a day which was to become one that would haunt my family forever. Kenneth Hume, my dad, was an electrician who worked for SSEB (Scottish Power). He served his time with them and was an experienced 29-year-old operative.
I vaguely remember him being on call or standby a lot of the time and having to go out through the night to deal with faults and issues throughout the area, but on this particular day he was carrying out maintenance at Gartcosh Substation in Lanarkshire which was around three miles or so from where we lived. My dad took the opportunity, as he was working so close to home, to come home and have lunch at my gran’s and spend some time with myself and my brother Scott. We had only just celebrated Scott’s second birthday a few days previously.
When it was time for my dad to go back to work, I remember asking him to give me a lift to my friend’s house just around the corner in his Ford Transit. I was obsessed with his van and in particular his tool chest in the back which had a photograph of a chimpanzee on the lid, I would often ask to go out to the van to see the chimp, these are the sort of things that interested me at 4-year-old I guess.
Dad told me that he couldn’t give me a lift, I can’t quite remember if it was because he was in a hurry to get back or if it was because he wasn’t insured to have me travelling in the van, but in any case, being a child I threw a tantrum because I wasn’t getting my own way and the words that came out my mouth next, are words that I have wished I could take back for nearly 30 years… “I hate you!” I know my dad would not have taken it to heart and would know that I was just acting like a spoiled brat, but it tears me up that those are the last words I would ever say to him.
Later in the afternoon the sound of sirens could be heard heading towards Gartcosh. I remember years later my mum saying that she got a really horrible feeling when she heard them, however not knowing or even thinking at the time that she was to become a widow with two young sons. The sirens were heading for Gartcosh because my dad had been electrocuted.
I’m not going to go into too much detail about the actual incident, mainly because I still don’t have the full details and because I want this article to focus on the how my family was affected in the aftermath. The reason for this being that the files relating to the Fatal Accident Inquiry were to be kept with a lawyer, with an instruction for myself and Scott to receive them when we were old enough to handle the details contained within them. These files were destroyed without permission and we have never seen them.
Part of the reason I became an electrician was to try and understand how electricity works and maybe understand what caused my dad’s death. You can imagine how my mum took the news about my career choice, initially she found it quite difficult but I reassured her that I wasn’t going to be working in the high voltage side of things.
My brother is also a spark and I often think about how things could have been very different as mum used to tell me that my dad’s dream was to have his own electrical business someday. Maybe dad would have tried to direct Scott and myself down another career path or would he have supported our career choice to make it a family business? Something we will never know.
I remember mum being very upset at times after my dad’s death, I can only assume that the only reason she carried on was because of Scott and me. The police asking very personal questions about her marriage, my dad’s state of mind, if he had been drinking etc. I know they were only doing their job but the timing wasn’t appropriate and the press were turning up at the house as well and my gran having to chase them off the doorstep were all putting strain on my mum as she started the grieving process.
I also think about my grandparents whom had already lost a son in a tragic accident. My dad’s eldest brother William had been killed in a road accident at 13-years-old. I really don’t know where they got the strength from to hold it together.
I wasn’t at dad’s funeral as mum felt I was too young, but everyone always tells me that there was a queue of cars behind the hearse that stretched through all the streets of the estate where we lived. That comforts me to know how much my dad was loved by family, friends and workmates. I suppose the funerals of young people are always well attended as it is such a shock that a life is cut short so prematurely.
Now that I am a parent myself with a daughter Jorja and a son whom we named after my dad, it really hits home to me all the things that my dad missed out on as Scott and me grew up. All the advice that we should have got from dad as well as the telling offs for all the crazy stuff we used to get up to as teenagers. Holidays, family gatherings, birthdays, nights out, being there for us when we had a problem, the list is endless.
I truly am grateful to my mum for giving us a fantastic upbringing under such tragic circumstances with help from friends and family. I really wish dad had been here to see his grandchildren, every time either of them do or say something new it makes me think about dad and all the joy that he has been robbed of and that Jorja and Kenneth have been robbed of a loving Papa. I hold every hour I spend with them precious as what I have learned from this is that you never know what is around the corner.
Only this morning [7 March], we had the tragic news of a worker killed in a tunnel on the Crossrail project in London. A 43-year-old man out earning to provide for himself and his family, won’t be returning home to them today. Unfortunately the way that Crossrail have handled the incident in the press, in my opinion, comes across as almost trying to make excuses and verging on justifying this poor man’s death by quoting their accident rate as “below the industry average”. It’s almost as if they are saying that they have done so well to get this far into the project without there being a fatality.
At this time my heart goes out to this man’s family and I can relate to how they must be feeling. This is “THE TRUE COST OF AN INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT”, not the delay to a project, not the suspension of production, not the cost of an HSE investigation, not the cost of a Fatal Accident Inquiry, not the cost of expensive company lawyers, not the cost of the emergency services attending an incident and not the cost of compensation if there even is any.
The cost lies with the families left behind, the emotional and mental cost. No amount of money can take away the pain.
This is why on Monday 28April 2014 for International Workers’ Memorial Day, I ask that every worker in the country support the UK Hazards Campaign and fight like hell for our lives and health and that of our families and friends. All those killed simply for going to work to earn a living are not publicly remembered on any other day.
Social media should be put to great use to show support and Hazards Campaign has suggested using “Health and Selfies”. Take a photo of yourself holding a piece of card with ‘I Love Red Tape – it’s better than bloody bandages!’ then tweet your Health and Selfie to your own MP, to David Cameron, to DWP and BIS Ministers, to local press, etc. using the hashtags #HealthandSelfie and #IWMD14.
The campaign would like everyone to tweet the same slogan ‘I/We Love Red Tape – it’s better than bloody bandages’ #IWMD14 at least once, and then any other slogans you can make up that say what you think to support good health and safety regulation. Suggested slogans to hold in your Health and Selfie – which you can also use as tweets:
#HealthandSelfie I love red tape- it’s better than bloody bandages #IWMD14
#HealthandSelfie I’d rather be wrapped in red tape than bloody bandages #IWMD14
#HealthandSelfie I’m working for a living, not to die #IWMD14
#HealthandSelfie I go to work to pay the bills, not to die #IWMD14
#HealthandSelfie I go to work to support my children, not to die #IWMD14
#HealthandSelfie I’m 2young2die@work so I love red tape #IWMD14
#HealthandSelfie Don’t work me to death: Don’t cut health and safety #IWMD14
#HealthandSelfie Work should be a means to an end, not the end #IWMD14
#HealthandSelfie No-one should die earning a living@work #IWMD14
#Healthand Selfie “Employers I’m (Joe Bloggs is) 2young2die@work Protect me with red tape at work!’ #IWMD14
#Healthand Selfie ‘Don’t work me to death’ #IWMD14
#Healthand Selfie ‘Prime Minister: we’d rather be wrapped in Red Tape than bloody bandages, stop deregulating health and safety law’ #IWMD14
#Healthand Selfie ‘I only work here, my family want me back safe at the end of my shift ’ #IWMD14
Good regulation and strong enforcement plus union safety reps make work safer#IWMD14
Please take part in International Workers Memorial Day, I know I will. I will be thinking of my dad in particular and I’ll have a photo of him and a slogan to suit for my “HealthandSelfie”
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.”