The quest for justice for victims of Blacklisting is not over
Ahead of his Westminster Hall debate today, Labour MP Chuka Umunna renews his demand for a public inquiry into victims of blacklisting.
Back in 2013 I led an Opposition Day debate in the House of Commons on blacklisting – the secretive, insidious and shady practice of sharing information on trade unionist and workers, and discriminating on them based on that information.
For me this was not, and is not, a party political issue – it is an issue of justice. It is a matter of correcting a gross injustice done to hard working people who have built Britain, who asked for nothing more than the chance of secure employment in order to provide for their families.
Blacklisting involves systematically compiling information on workers which is then used by employers or recruiters to discriminate against them and deny them employment. This is not because of their skills or ability to do the job but for other more sinister reasons, such as simply raising health and safety issues, being a member of a political party, or being an active trade union member.
The extent of blacklisting activity in the construction sector was exposed for all to see following a raid carried out by the Information Commissioner’s Office in 2009 on the offices of a shadowy organisation called the Consulting Association which as bank rolled by the UK's major construction companies.
Trade unions including Unite and GMB, of which I am both proudly a member, have also unearthed a huge amount of evidence, along with the Blacklisting Support Group on its activities.
We know that blacklisting checks were carried out on workers who were to be employed on publicly funded projects, ranging from airport runways, buildings such as the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall, GCHQ, the Jubilee Line, the Millennium Dome, hospitals, schools, Olympics sites, and road contracts.
Blacklisting was also taking place on Crossrail, after it was revealed that a former senior HR manager of a contractor on the project, Ron Barron, was found to have been a regular user and contributor to the Consulting Association’s services.
Beyond blacklist checks being made on workers on public sector projects, David Clancy, the Information Commissioner’s Investigations Manager who carried out the raid in 2009, has made very serious allegations in relation to the police and security services and their complicity in what was going on.
When giving evidence to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee Mr Clancy – a former police officer – said he believed that some of the information held by the Consulting Association would have come from the police or security services, based on the nature of the information held.
For example, one file contained an in-depth analysis of an individual’s home circumstances and what his neighbours thought about them. Having seen examples of some of the records myself, it is clear that they contained information based on surveillance away from construction sites, so it seems unlikely that such information could have come exclusively from construction firms.
I called for a full public inquiry into this whole affair in 2013 and saw to it that a commitment to hold one was in Labour's 2015 manifesto, but we have seen little action from the Government on this. So I will use the debate I am leading in Westminster Hall today to once again call for a full public inquiry into blacklisting in public sector construction projects, which must also consider the role of the police and other public authorities. Those who have been the targets and victims of blacklisting deserve nothing less.
Moreover, we cannot say with confidence these practices are not continuing - in face many fear that they are, and that is why we must act. I will also be calling for the Government to strengthen the law preventing blacklisting from happening. Families deserve security, and the knowledge that they will not be systematically denied work, forced out of an industry and have their lives torn apart.
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