from the Blacklist Support Group:
The Blacklist Support Group (a network of building workers blacklisted in the Consulting Association scandal) has filed a submission to the consultation process for the proposed new Blacklisting Regulations.
The full consultation closes on Tues 18th August (it is being fast-tracked, as the Regulations have been “on the books” since 1999 but were never turned into law by the Secretary of State because of intense business lobbying during a 2003 consultation process).
John McDonnell MP (who has been championing the cause of the blacklisted construction workers in parliament) said:
“Only the strongest legislation will be able to protect workers from the scandal of blacklisting. That is why we are calling on the government for tough action.”
Continue reading “Blacklisted workers demand ‘strongest legislation’”
When a private investigator was fined £5,000 for running an illegal blacklist of over 3,000 construction workers, the real villains escaped justice. The construction industry’s major names had bankrolled and directed The Consulting Association, which in turn told them to steer clear of union activists – particularly those like Dave Smith who had made a stand on safety.
Dave Smith believes construction sites should be safe. He’s been fired several times and has faced years of hardship for saying so. Dave is one of the 3,213 construction workers the Information Commissioner disclosed in March 2009 were listed on an illegal blacklisting database.
He knows he was listed for safety reasons. That’s made crystal clear in the 36-page dossier bearing his name seized by the Information Commissioner in a February 2009 raid on blacklisting outfit The Consulting Association.
“Everything in my file relates to safety – page after page of concerns about asbestos, near fatal accidents, god awful toilet facilities,” Dave told Hazards. “If I discussed it with a site agent, it ended up in my file. Even my UCATT safety reps’ credentials were on the file.” Raise safety concerns and “you were sacked and then hounded out of the industry,” he said.
This wasn’t a minor inconvenience, it was a fast track to poverty. “My kids were on milk tokens. I am a qualified and experienced engineer but during one of the biggest building booms this country has ever known, with the industry crying out for skilled workers, I couldn’t get a start.”
Read the full Hazards magazine story and Dave Smith interview.
Unions have called for action against unpunished blacklist users after the Information Commissioner’s Office served enforcement notices on only 14 of the subscribers to a covert blacklisting operation. The regulator said it could not take action against other 30 contractors found to have received invoices from The Consulting Association as it did not find enough evidence against them.
Alan Ritchie, general secretary of construction union UCATT, said: “While I recognise the move to issue enforcement notices on the construction companies listed, I believe straightforward prosecutions would have been a more appropriate response.”
He told trade journal Construction News: “It appears some of the worst offenders have been omitted from the ICO action, including a company that made nearly 13,000 individual checks on workers in 2008 alone. We need to remember that a number of these companies had secured hundreds of millions of pounds from publicly-procured contracts while at the same time operating a blacklist on those same sites. There must now be an additional process to bring other guilty companies to account for the misery they inflicted on thousands of construction workers and their families”.
The Consulting Association’s financial files show several of the firms escaping notices received higher bills from the blacklisting company than those served – with top contributors Skanska and Sir Robert McAlpine having no action taken against them.
When the Information Commissioner discovered a Droitwich company held a blacklist on over 3,000 construction workers, it acted promptly.
The Consulting Association was shut down, key figure Ian Kerr was prosecuted and fined £5,000, workers who believed they had been blacklisted could apply to receive their files and the government promised a new law.
Two other things soon became apparent, though. The major construction firms that bankrolled the covert blacklisting operation on trade unionists would escape prosecution. And The Consulting Association had been operating in one guise or another for decades before Kerr faced the courts.
Hazards magazine’s ‘blacklist blog’ is tracking developments on the story – it’s a health and safety story because union health and safety activity or even concern appears to be a fast track to blacklisting, with union safety rep credentials a regular feature in blacklist dossiers.
Hazards is also concerned that other seemingly legitimate outfits – management consultants and law firms, for example – may be providing blacklisting advice as part of “union avoidance” services. And it believes that while the emphasis has been on victimisation of trade unionists in the construction sector, blacklisting is almost certainly prevalent in other sectors.
The blacklist blog tracks legal and campaign developments – so you can see what his happening and see why it is crucial to make a stand.
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”
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”
Construction union UCATT has welcomed the government’s commitment to outlaw blacklisting but says it is disappointed that the process will be delayed as a result of a fresh consultation exercise. The Information Commissioner announced in March that over 40 major construction companies were paying a company called the Consulting Association to routinely blacklist workers.
UCATT news release • Construction News • Morning Star • Risks 406 • 16 May 2009
Following revelations that many construction companies have been subscribing to a blacklisting service that includes information on safety representatives in the industry, the government has confirmed that it will urgently review whether to outlaw blacklisting after allegations of its widespread practice in construction.
Contract Journal • Risks 404 • 2 May 2009
The government has pledged to put an end to blacklisting of safety reps and other union activists. Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the Labour Party, told the House of Commons: “I don’t think a trade union health and safety representative should find they are on a blacklist and will never be able to work again.”
UCATT news release • Contract Journal • Building • Construction News • The Scotsman • The Guardian • EDM 1020 – Blacklisting in construction • Risks 398 • 21 March 2009