Firms who blacklist workers ‘should be denied public cash’

Richard Baker MSP is leading calls for blacklisters to be refused public cash. Picture: Jane Barlow
Richard Baker MSP is leading calls for blacklisters to be refused public cash. Picture: Jane Barlow
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FIRMS involved in blacklisting workers should be banned from receiving contracts involving taxpayers’ cash, MSPs and trade unions have urged.

As many as 5,000 construction workers in Scotland are thought to be on employers’ blacklists, because of their involvement in campaigns to improve workplace conditions, trade unions say.

A group of MSPs wants to change the law to prevent firms that use blacklists from bidding for Scottish Government contracts, or those that involve public money.

Scotland’s public bodies spend more than £9 billion each year on procurement, with construction contracts accounting for more than £2bn.

Labour MSPs Neil Findlay and Richard Baker will attempt to force SNP ministers to back the move, as part of the Scottish Government’s Procurement Bill that will change the way the public sector buys goods, works and services.

A Scottish Government consultation on the bill, due to be published early this year, discusses how to increase the use of “community-benefit clauses in higher-value contracts” to force firms to promote employment and training opportunities for Scots.

The Unite union in Scotland is backing the campaign to prevent blacklisting, with Westminster’s Scottish affairs committee having already taken evidence on the practice in the construction industry.

The Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) has been investigating the extent of the practice, where workers are kept out of jobs because they are classed as troublemakers.

A group of 100 workers in England is also pursuing a class action against 39 companies.

Mr Findlay and Mr Baker have promised to try to amend the bill to stop firms involved in blacklisting from benefiting from the public purse.

Mr Findlay said: “The Scottish affairs select committee and its chairman, Ian Davidson, have done tremendous work in exposing the outrageous practices of many of the large construction companies, who blacklisted workers for being health and safety reps, environmental or union activists, or on very spurious grounds, such as having attended a political meeting.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said there was no evidence firms awarded contracts were involved in blacklisting workers, but he would not say whether the demand from the Labour MSPs would be accepted as part of the bill.

“All proposals for inclusion in the Procurement Reform Bill must be consistent with EU law,” he said. “We are in the process of analysing the responses to the consultation and determining what may be possible, within the framework of EU law, to deal with inappropriate conduct by companies bidding for public contracts in Scotland.”