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April 18, 2013

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Parliamentary committee reports on “morally indefensible” blacklisting in construction

Supporters of construction workers whose details were held on a covert database have called on the Government to ensure that the firms that set up and used the blacklist are not awarded public contracts.

The Blacklist Support Group issued its call following publication of the interim report of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee’s ongoing inquiry into blacklisting in employment and specifically that in the construction industry, as facilitated by the illegal database maintained and operated by the Consulting Association.

The Committee, chaired by Labour MP for Glasgow South West, Ian Davidson, described blacklisting by the secret and unaccountable process operated by the Consulting Association and its construction-industry subscribers as “morally indefensible” and said it considered the practice as “unethical and to be condemned”.

The report cites some of the biggest names in construction, including Sir Robert McAlpine, whose claim that its role in the Consulting Association and blacklisting was hands-off was not accepted by the Committee. Regarding Skanska and Balfour Beatty, the Committee acknowledged that both firms have, since they were revealed as subscribers to the database, faced up to their responsibilities but it laments the fact that neither has held any individual to account for the wrong-doing.

Mr Davidson said: “We were appalled by what we discovered during our committee hearings. The Consulting Association was an organised conspiracy by big construction firms to discriminate against workers who raised legitimate grievances over health and safety, and other industrial issues.

“This was an exercise run for the financial gain of the companies involved and those who benefited must be held accountable.”

The Blacklist Support Group welcomed the interim report, saying it cuts through all (as the report itself describes it) “verbal gymnastics” engaged in by some of the companies giving evidence and, “using parliamentary language, both exposes the human-rights conspiracy and pours scorn on the pathetic excuses of those who ran the blacklist”.

The Unite union echoed the Blacklist Support Group’s call to bar firms involved in blacklisting from public contracts. Speaking at the STUC Congress yesterday (17 April), general secretary Len McCluskey said: “We urge the Scottish government to do the right thing and the Westminster government should act against the blacklisters too, instead of risking embarrassment over its failure to stand up for basic human rights and freedom of association.”

The Group is also calling for a full public apology to blacklisted workers, compensation for those affected and jobs for blacklisted workers on major projects.

The Scottish Affairs Select Committee says it will now concentrate on four issues: determining whether or not blacklisting is still happening – in construction and more widely; qualification for and provision of compensation; potential penalties for the firms and individuals involved in blacklisting; and enforcement of current/requirements for further legislation in this area.

“Once we have more evidence on these matters,” the report concludes, “we intend to make a number of recommendations to the Government.”

The full interim report can be downloaded here.

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