Blacklisting Must Be Stamped Out

The Journal (Newcastle, England), October 29, 2009 | Go to article overview

Blacklisting Must Be Stamped Out


Byline: DAVE ANDERSON

ONE of the most abiding memories for many workers in the 1970s and 1980s was the blacklisting of trade unionists, primarily based on the activities of the so-called Economic League, a shadowy organisation.

Many workers were barred from jobs because of their legitimate trade union activity, often based on wildly inaccurate and unreliable information.

Most of us believed and hoped that these bad old days were behind us, but that myth was sadly destroyed at a recent meeting in the Commons.

Alan Ritchie, the general secretary of the construction union UCATT, launched a detailed report on current blacklisting practices, which is packed with moving case studies of people who have been victimised for no good reason.

The union's report was inspired by an investigation carried out by the information commissioner. That official inquiry exposed the Consulting Association, run by Ian Kerr, which had been operating a blacklist of over 3,000 construction workers for decades. A staggering 44 major construction companies were revealed to have been using the company's services.

Household names in the building industry which makes hundreds of millions, often from public sector contracts, were shown to be denying construction workers a living.

The investigation outlined how blacklisting in the building industry had become endemic and that the Consulting Association and various big businesses had callously and systematically ruined the lives of thousands of skilled construction workers, many of whom were forced out of the industry because of blacklisting.

Following the exposure of the blacklist, construction workers have been given the opportunity to contact the information commissioner to discover if they have been blacklisted and see their file. Many UCATT members, activists and officials were blacklisted.

Disgracefully, blacklisting is not illegal and prosecution is possible only under data protection laws. The 1999 Employment Relations Act had created provisions for outlawing blacklisting, but the necessary regulations were never introduced because the Government wrongly believed that it no longer took place. …

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