The rights of blacklisted workers in the UK received a fillip at the end of last month when the European Commissioner with responsibility for employment, social affairs and inclusion gave his backing to EU wide legislation to outlaw the practice.

A delegation from the Blacklist Support Group handed extensive documentary evidence to László Andor at a private meeting with him on 30 June, including secret blacklist files kept about union safety reps in the UK construction industry.

The files were compiled by the Consulting Association and provide damning evidence that multinational building firms systematically dismissed and victimised workers who raised concerns about health and safety issues or unpaid wages.

The files (some up to 49 pages long) contain sensitive information including; names, addresses, national insurance numbers, work history, medical history, press cuttings, union meetings attended, speeches made, political affiliations.

Many of the entries were supplied by senior industrial relations managers from major construction firms relating to (among other things) complaints that individuals had raised on site about safety breaches such as asbestos or poor toilet facilities.

The information was then circulated among various multinational building firms and used to exclude workers from major construction projects. Many blacklisted workers were repeatedly sacked as a result.

Professor Keith Ewing from Kings College London (a leading academic in human rights issues and the author of the 2009 UCATT report Ruined Lives. Blacklisting in the UK Construction Industry) presented Commissioner Laslo with a range of possible legislative options for tackling the issue.

He also drew attention to the fact that blacklisting violates many provisions of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, and that the EU had the authority and responsibility to respond to this major violation of health and safety standards.

The right to join a trade union and not to be victimised is enshrined in article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The blacklisting of trade unionists in the construction industry was exposed after an investigation by the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) in 2009.

The ICO identified a number of household names using the Consulting Association including Skanska (Sweden), Bam (Netherlands), Vinci (France), Laing O’Rourke (Ireland), Sir Robert McAlpine, Balfour Beatty, Kier, Costain and Carillion (UK).