Borders rail group ‘blacklisted union members’

Holyrood has been called on to form a childcare commission. Picture: Neil Hanna
Holyrood has been called on to form a childcare commission. Picture: Neil Hanna
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MSPs yesterday called for an inquiry into blacklisting, following claims that the consortium building the Scottish Government’s flagship Borders railway blacklisted workers while running another transport project.

• Blacklisted workers to speak to Holyrood summit organised by Labour politician

• Secret files revealed that thousands of workers were actively denied employment because they had raised health and safety fears or for trade union membership

BFK, the main contractor delivering the £294 million Borders railway line, was accused of being heavily involved in the “scandal” during a Scottish Parliament debate on the practice.

Before the debate, unions lobbied MSPs claiming they have evidence that BFK consortium was responsible for the termination of a Crossrail contract in London where 28 workers were made redundant for raising health and safety concerns.

The Unite union, which staged a protest at Holyrood yesterday, said the allegations about BFK showed it was unfit for taxpayer-funded contracts in Scotland such as the Borders scheme.

Labour transport spokesman Richard Baker said that the revelations about the consortium showed blacklisting was still “going on today”, as he called on ministers to order an inquiry into the practice in Scotland after the latest allegations, adding: “The government should use the powers it has so workers don’t have to live in fear.”

Labour MSP Drew Smith said firms such as those in BFK, with alleged links to blacklisting, “employ my constituents”.

Mr Smith said: “It’s claimed that blacklisting is a historical practice, but allegations about the practice in recent projects include the Crossrail project, where 28 workers were made redundant because they raised health and safety concerns.”

Unite said it had evidence the BFK consortium removed 28 electricians from the London Crossrail project because of trade union

activity. Roz Foyer, Scottish organiser of the Unite union, said: “The Scottish Government has given a public sector contract worth nearly £300 million to a firm allegedly involved in blacklisting. This should be challenged by the people who control the purse strings and there must be no more money for any firm involved in blacklisting.”

Labour MSP Neil Findlay, who forced the Holyrood debate, said it was a “scandal” for firms involved in blacklisting to receive taxpayers’ cash. We have some of the biggest names here,” he said. “These companies involved in blacklisting have repeatedly received public money.”

Firms in the BFK consortium behind the Borders rail scheme and Forth Replacement Crossing were among the firms found to have paid the Consulting Association for access to blacklists.

The offices of the Consulting Association were raided after it emerged it was selling secret personal data to firms.

However, SNP employment minister Angela Constance said there was no “evidence to suggest” firms had used blacklists for public sector projects.

Ms Constance rejected the calls for an inquiry and said that Westminster’s Scottish affairs committee should to complete its own inquiry into the practice.

She said: “The government is totally opposed to blacklisting. We believe it’s appropriate for the Scottish Affairs committee to conclude it’s inquiry.”

BAM, the firm leading the BFK consortium, said it had never faced action over blacklisting.