LOTHIAN health bosses have faced protests from unions after firms implicated in a blacklisting scandal emerged as frontrunners in a battle for the contract to build the new Sick Kids hospital.
Members of Unite descended on the health board’s HQ at Waverley Gate yesterday – accompanied by a giant inflatable rat – in opposition to BAM Construction’s place on the shortlist for the estimated £300 million contract.
The union has claimed that a consortium including BAM, which is part of a joint bid for the new Sick Kids with Balfour Beatty Construction, sacked 28 workers for trade union activity and raising health and safety concerns while working on the London Crossrail project.
The company has denied engaging in blacklisting, while NHS Lothian insisted its bidding process would look closely at employment policy.
Blacklisting sees the names of workers involved with trade unions, or who raise safety concerns, added to a list which is then distributed among employers, making it harder for them to find work.
Although illegal, it was found in 2009 that hundreds of Scottish workers’ names were on a blacklist which firms paid to access.
The issue is set to be debated at the City Chambers today, after the Green Party’s Maggie Chapman tabled a motion calling on councillors to condemn the practice and asking for an investigation into council contracts and the use of firms who use blacklists.
Unite senior organiser Willie Thomson said: “Anecdotally it seems that on major construction projects, trade union members are finding it difficult to gain work. The public sector should not be awarding contracts to companies that practise blacklisting.
“BAM construction are shortlisted for the Sick Kids, a contract we estimate at being worth £300m, and they’re the major constructor on the Edinburgh to Borders rail link which is another £200m.”
It was announced in March that the joint bid involving BAM and Balfour Beatty was shortlisted alongside two others to build the new Sick Kids. The winning bid is due to be announced next spring.
Susan Goldsmith, NHS Lothian’s finance director, said: “As part of the pre-qualification process all bidders were required to pass a number of questions about their employment polices and procedures. Bidders are required to demonstrate their approach to partnership and employment and our evaluation team will continue to look at these areas.”
A spokeswoman for BAM said: “BAM does not engage in blacklisting. Blacklisting has no place in the construction industry or in any sector.”
Balfour Beatty declined to comment.