Leading trade union lawyers, Thompsons Solicitors, have welcomed the conclusions of the Scottish Affairs Committee’s second interim report on blacklisting in employment as a another important step forward in the fight against blacklisting.
In their damning report, MPs argued that simply ending blacklisting is not enough, and proposed various measures for offending firms to make amends and how best practice can be adopted to ensure that blacklisting is not allowed to reoccur. In particular, the Committee recommended that:
- Firms caught blacklisting should be excluded from all publically funded work unless they can prove that they have undertaken a process of ‘self-cleaning’- this would include admission of guilt, the awarding of full compensation to the victim and other remedial steps; and
- A compensation scheme must only be introduced if it is agreed between the blacklisting companies and representatives of the blacklisted workers. It should provide for an apology, adequate compensation (not only for possible loss of earnings) and employee assistance for those still of working age.
This second interim report follows the Committee’s damning indictment last year of the covert activities of The Consulting Association, operating as an orchestrated conspiracy of employers in the construction industry, to blacklist trade unionists.
The Committee has found a “clear link” between blacklisting and poor health and safety standards, and that “with union membership comes the risk of being blacklisted, particularly if the union member in question is responsible for raising health and safety issues against clients/contractors.”
The Committee drew attention to the ground-breaking framework agreement between trade unions and EDF on the new Hinkley Point C power station project. The standards for monitoring and reporting procedures for health and safety, a commitment to direct employment and establishing an “employment brokerage” for jobs should, the Committee said, be adopted as industry standards in the UK.
Richard Arthur, Head of Thompsons’ Solicitors Trade Union Law Group, said:
“Blacklisting has contaminated the construction industry for far too long. As the Committee pointed out, the companies would have kept using the Consulting Association if they hadn’t been exposed. The Committee’s call to exclude firms who have used blacklists from the award of public contracts is a very welcome step forward, and echoes what the trade unions have been saying for some time. As the Committee says, firms should have to prove that they have ‘self-cleaned’ their blacklisting record.
“It is absolutely crucial going forward that companies who have blacklisted workers make appropriate redress. That includes an apology, proper compensation (not just restricted to pure financial loss) and employee assistance, as well as meeting the other requirements of the blacklisted workers’ trade unions and representatives. The extent to which companies have self-cleaned for the purpose of the award of public contracts will be judged in part against what a compensation scheme provides.
The Committee is right to point to what is needed in the future. This report doesn't mean blacklisting is a thing of the past. It is, by its nature, difficult to detect and without a clear statement against it, blacklisting will persist.”