David Cameron says worker blacklisting ‘unacceptable’

Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite, has called blacklisting a national scandal. Picture: PA
Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite, has called blacklisting a national scandal. Picture: PA
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BLACKLISTING of construction workers is a “completely unacceptable practice”, David Cameron told MPs today.

• Prime Minister calls blacklisting “unacceptable”

• Labour MPs and union bosses call for inquiry into the practice

• Blacklist used by over 40 top construction firms discovered by the Information Commissioner

The Prime Minister spoke out ahead of a Labour Opposition Day debate on the issue, which saw hundreds of workers allegedly blocked from major contracts.

Mr Cameron said the issues occurred during Labour’s time in office ahead of the debate calling for an investigation into claims firms involved in major construction projects, including the Olympics and Crossrail, blacklisted workers.

Speaking in the Commons at Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Cameron said: “The blacklisting that occurred was a completely unacceptable practice. I think the previous government was right to bring in legislation to make it unlawful.

“We’ve seen no evidence the blacklisting regulations introduced are not doing their job and the company responsible was shut down in 2009.

“But let me say this: I do welcome the openness and frankness that Labour are using an Opposition Day debate to look at something that went wrong while they were in office.”

Mr Cameron responded to Labour MP Ian Lavery who compared blacklisting to phone hacking because it “destroyed the lives of many innocent people”.

He said: “It ruined and continues to ruin the lives of many hardworking men, women and their families.”

Ahead of the debate, Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, said there should be a Leveson-style inquiry into the “scandal”.

Labour have said secret files on thousands of workers in the construction sector resulted in them being denied employment after raising legitimate health and safety concerns or exercising their human right to belong to a trade union.

Unions have said that more than 40 of the UK’s largest construction firms used a blacklist.

Many workers have no idea they were included on the blacklist, which was uncovered by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in a raid in 2009.

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna condemned blacklisting as a “secret, insidious, shameful practice” as he opened Labour’s Opposition Day debate.

He said in the two decades it was thought to operate, MPs, trade unionists and journalists had all fallen foul of blacklists, as well as thousands of construction workers.

And he said evidence suggested that half of the top 20 companies today were involved with the Consulting Association in 2009, paying an annual £3,000 a year subscription plus £2.20 for each blacklist check.

Mr Umunna said: “It was a drop in the ocean for them but something which would have severe consequences for the workers affected.

“What we have seen is a culture of denial and simply sticking their heads in the sand on this issue when the public and people working in the industry deserve is some honesty.”

Responding to both Mr Cameron’s comments at Prime Minister’s Questions and interventions from Tory backbenchers, he acknowledged that the last Labour government could have done more after consulting on new regulations in 2003 but failing to implement them.

But the issue today demanded cross-party concern and urged the Government to order a full investigation, he said.