Blacklist firms ‘should be blacklisted themselves’

Blacklist firms should be banned from acquiring public contracts, according to the committee. Picture: TSPL
Blacklist firms should be banned from acquiring public contracts, according to the committee. Picture: TSPL
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COMPANIES which blacklist workers should themselves be blacklisted and barred from receiving publicly funded contracts, according to Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee.

The Committee said companies that had been caught blacklisting should undertake a process of “self-cleaning”, including an admission of guilt and paying compensation.

The move puts more pressure on construction firms which used a blacklist of thousands of workers, whose names were sometimes included merely for raising health and safety issues.

The secret list of more than 3,000 names was discovered five years ago after 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 blacklist.

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.

‘Would still be happening if they hadn’t been caught’

Committee chairman Ian Davison, Lab/Co-op 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.

“It is impossible to fully quantify the damage that may have been done to people’s careers and livelihoods, and to their families, as well as to health and safety on site, by these practices, but restitution must be made.

“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.”

Welsh approach backed

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.

“We will now be writing to the coalition government , to the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments and to local authority associations, urging them to adopt our proposals and to use their financial power to ensure that blacklisting is abolished, direct employment is made mandatory and that health and safety is given ever greater priority,” added Mr Davison.

Justin Bowden, national officer of the GMB union, said: “For two years, GMB has campaigned for the blacklisters to be blacklisted and we very much welcome the call from the Scottish Affairs Committee for this to happen if the construction companies fail adequately to apologise to, and compensate their victims.

“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.”

The report is the latest in a series of moves against blacklisting.

The GMB said it welcomed a vote by MEPs in the European Parliament yesterday backing measures to ensure that blacklisting was illegal under EU law, while Islington Council in London announced it would not award contracts to firms involved in blacklisting.

Legal action is being taken on behalf of blacklisted workers, while negotiations are being held between unions and a group of companies over compensation.


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