The government is to introduce new regulations to prevent union members being denied employment by secret blacklists.
In March the Information Commissioner reported that 40 construction companies had subscribed to a database used to vet construction workers involved in union activities or membership, which has now been closed under data protection law.
The government plans the early launch of a consultation on revised regulations, expected to go for parliamentary approval in the autumn.
Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said: “People should not be victimised at work or denied access to employment opportunities because of their trade union membership.
“Evidence from the Information Commissioner showed there was a problem. There is already legal protection against the misuse of people’s personal details. We now plan to strengthen the law by introducing new regulations to outlaw the compilation, dissemination and use of blacklists in this way.”
Trade unions backed the move, which will prevent employers choosing not to employ staff with union connections.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “It is outrageous that unscrupulous employers have been victimising trade unionists through shady blacklisting practices that have no place in a democratic society.
“I am glad that the government is now consulting speedily on this issue which will, I hope, lead to quick and effective action to outlaw this utterly unacceptable practice.”
Construction union Ucatt added that blacklisting should have been outlawed 10 years ago, claiming thousands of members had illegally been denied work.
Under the Employment Relations Act 1999 the government has the power to introduce regulations prohibiting the blacklisting of workers for their union membership or activities.
In 2003, the government consulted on draft regulations, but at that time no hard evidence was found that blacklisting was taking place.
This second consultation will be shorter than the usual 12-week period, taking into account developments between 2003 and today.