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July 4, 2011

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European laws to ban blacklisting a step closer

EU-wide legislation to outlaw the practice of blacklisting workers is looking increasingly likely, following a successful trip to Brussels last week by a UK pressure group.

The Blacklist Support Group – set up after the discovery in 2009 of a covert database of construction workers, which counted some of the industry’s biggest companies among its subscribers – held private talks on 30 June with László Andor, the European Union commissioner with responsibility for employment, social affairs and inclusion.

During the 45-minute meeting, Commissioner Andor was presented with documentary evidence from Brian Higgins, Steve Acheson and Dave Smith in the form of secret blacklist files kept by the Consulting Association about their activities as union safety reps in the UK construction industry.

The secret files contain sensitive personal information, as well as press-cuttings, details of union meetings attended, speeches made, and political affiliations. According to the Group, many entries on the files were supplied by senior industrial relations managers from major construction firms relating to when an individual had spoken to their site managers about safety breaches. The information in the files was circulated among multinational building firms and used to deny workers employment on major construction projects.

Regulations banning the practice of blacklisting came into force in the UK last year but there is no specific EU-wide legislation against blacklisting of individuals for safety reasons. Following its discussions on this subject with the commissioner, the Blacklist Support Group delegation said his “genuinely positive response exceeded all our expectations”.

Blacklisted electrician Steve Acheson, secretary of the Manchester Contracting Branch of Unite the Union, said: “We have been victimised by these firms just because we have stood up for safety issues. But we are not just fighting for ourselves; this evil practice is almost certainly taking place in other industries and in other countries across Europe. I refuse to sit in my front room at home and turn into an old man; instead I choose to campaign on behalf of young workers in Poland, Spain, Greece, Ireland, and any workers in Europe who are prepared to stand up for their basic human rights.” 
Also at the meeting was Professor Keith Ewing, an expert in international law and human-rights issues from Kings College London, who presented possible legislative options open to the European Union. He highlighted the facts that many of the companies involved in the UK blacklist were based in Europe, and that blacklisting violates many provisions of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The meeting was arranged by Stephen Hughes MEP and Glenis Willmott MEP, who are taking up the issue in the European Parliament. Said Mr Hughes: “Blacklisting is a genuine issue, which affects all member states, and I will work with colleagues to address this serious concern and apply parliamentary pressure to trigger action.

“This meeting is the beginning, not the end, of a process. Once we have planted the seed with Commissioner Andors, we will follow up with action in the European Parliament’s Employment Committee and the full Parliament. It will take time but we don’t give up easily!”

Photo – left to right: Prof Keith Ewing, Brian Higgins, Stephen Hughes MEP, EU commissioner László Andor, Steve Acheson

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12 years ago

Another pointless law which the companies will simply ignore, the oilfield has been blighted by listings since the 70’s so does anyone seriously expect that a law from Europe will change decades old practices!

12 years ago

…unless of course the penalties for breaching the legislation are so penal that compliance is ubiquitous. It is not necessarily the law which is at fault. The previous construction blacklisting scandal in the UK resulted in a maximum £5,000 fine under the DPA. No one is going to take that level of fine seriously!