Blacklisting firms 'should be barred'

construction Image copyright AFP
Image caption Tens of thousands of construction workers are said to have been blacklisted by the industry

Firms that blacklist workers should be blacklisted themselves and barred from being given publicly funded contracts, according to a committee of MPs.

The Scottish Affairs Committee said companies that had been caught blacklisting should undertake a process of "self-cleaning".

This would include an admission of guilt and paying compensation.

A secret list of more than 3,000 people who were blacklisted by construction firms was discovered five years ago.

Some workers had been included on the list merely for raising health and safety issues.

It was found during a raid by the Information Commissioner's Office on the Consulting Association, which has since shut down, but unions believe blacklisting has continued in the building trade.

The MPs said many of those on the blacklist had still not been told about their inclusion despite long-running campaigns by unions to halt the practice and win compensation.

Some people believe they have been denied work because their name is on the list.

The committee said an agreement between unions and French energy giant EDF, outlawing blacklisting on the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset, should become "best practice" for the industry.

Committee chairman Ian Davidson, the Labour MP for Glasgow South West, 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."

'Ethical stance'

Mr Davidson said it was impossible to fully quantify the damage that may have been done to people's careers and livelihoods, as well as to health and safety on construction sites, by the use of blacklists.

But he said restitution must be made to victims of the practice.

He added: "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 paid tribute to the Welsh government for taking a "clear and unequivocal ethical stance" against blacklisting and to the Blacklisting Support Group, which has campaigned over a long number of years.

Mr Davidson said the committee would now write to the coalition UK government, the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments and local authority associations, urging them to adopt its proposals and to use their financial power to ensure that blacklisting is abolished.

Welcoming the report, Justin Bowden, national officer of the GMB union, said: "The position of the all-party committee could not be any clearer - that local, regional and national government should not spend a penny more of taxpayers' money with any company guilty of blacklisting, past, present or future, who has not self-cleansed."

Unite union assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: "It is time to start compensating and re-employing blacklisted workers. Failure to do so could lead to contractors forfeiting crucial contracts as momentum builds to run the blacklisters out of town."

Earlier this week, Islington Council in north London said it would terminate the contract of any firm found to be blacklisting construction workers.

Dumfries and Galloway Council also said it was taking steps to prevent construction firms involved in blacklisting from competing for public sector contracts.

On Wednesday, MEPs in the European Parliament backed measures to ensure that blacklisting was illegal under EU law.

And last year, the Scottish government published new rules that require companies bidding for work to disclose whether they have been involved in blacklisting.

If so, they must show "remedial action" has been taken. In future, companies found to have breached laws against blacklisting could have their contracts terminated.

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