Stronger laws needed to end blacklisting

Steve Murphy General Secretary of construction union UCATT has restated the union’s belief that blacklisting will only be stamped out if sufficiently strong laws are introduced.

Mr Murphy made his comments yesterday (January 22) while giving evidence at the Scottish Affairs Select Committee as part of their ongoing investigation into blacklisting.

Mr Murphy was giving evidence along with representatives of Unite and the GMB concerning the Hinkley Point Agreement. The Hinkley Point Agreement has been agreed by UCATT, Unite and GMB along with the client EDF and the contractors Bouygues and Laing O’Rourke, it provides a framework which will govern how industrial relations are managed while building the new nuclear power station.

The Scottish Affairs Committee were interested in the fact that the agreement includes a specific ant-blacklisting clause, which says: “All parties agree that it is not acceptable for any party to use or make any reference to any form of blacklist.”

In the negotiations led by UCATT, the union side insisted on the clauses insertion to deter blacklisters. UCATT has also successfully forced construction employers to agree to a similar anti-blacklisting clause in the Construction Industry Joint Council’s (CIJC) Working Rule Agreement, the largest industrial agreement covering construction workers.

Mr Murphy however explained that while the anti-blacklisting clauses were a step forward as they were part of a voluntary agreement they were not legally enforceable. If blacklisting was discovered at Hinkley Point then it was likely that the principal contractor would be responsible for having the sub-contractor removed from site.

Mr Murphy emphasised that to stamp out blacklisting stronger laws needed to be introduced. He explained that the existing regulations, where the only resort a blacklisted worker had is to an employment tribunal were too weak and the definition of what constituted blacklisting was too narrow.

UCATT first detailed the measures needed to end blacklisting in Ruined Lives their response to the Government’s consultation into blacklisting in 2009. They are:

  • Blacklisting should be a criminal offence.
  • Everyone who is blacklisted is automatically entitled to basic compensation, with higher rates for workers who were more affected by blacklisting.
  • That if a blacklist is discovered it must be automatically confiscated by the Information Commissioners Office and everyone whose names appears must be automatically informed by the ICO.
  • That the anti-blacklisting measures should cover the wider area of “activities associated with trade unions” rather than the more narrow “trade union activities.”

Mr Murphy said: “UCATT is using every possible device to try to prevent blacklisting but our very best efforts are being hampered by the fundamental weakness of the anti-blacklisting regulations. Until these are strengthened there will be companies willing to blacklist workers.”

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