Blacklisting of union members set to be outlawed by autumn

Business secretary Lord Mandelson has outlined details of legislation that will outlaw the blacklisting of union members.

He proposes:

  • To make it unlawful for organisations to refuse employment or sack individuals as a result of appearing on a blacklist
  • To make it unlawful for employment agencies to refuse to provide a service on the basis of appearing on a blacklist
  • To enable individuals or unions to pursue compensation or solicit action against those who compile, distribute or use blacklists.

Lord Mandelson said: “Blacklisting someone because they are a member of a trade union is totally unacceptable. I am determined to act quickly to stamp out this despicable practice and today’s proposals outline how we will deliver this.”

The Department for Business said there will be a six-week consultation period – date yet to be announced – during which interested parties can put their views. The new regulations will go before Parliament in the autumn with a view to implementing them “urgently and as soon as it [Parliament] can”.

Krishna Santra, associate at law firm Matthew Arnold & Baldwin, said: “There had been a number of construction firms under the spotlight due to the fact they were not recruiting individuals because they were union members. Databases were compiled by certain companies with personal details including the employee’s union activities and sold to construction firms.

“Therefore if an employee was branded as ‘trouble’ it was impossible to find employment. Why should employees who are trade union members suffer detriment due to a membership affiliation?”

Construction company Sir Robert McAlpine is facing a claim from a blacklisted bricklayer who believes he was turned down for work by the company. Mick Dooley – who is challenging to be the next general secretary of construction union Ucatt – lodged his claim with the Employment Tribunal.

It is believed to be the first legal action taken by a construction worker in the wake of a blacklisting scandal that erupted in March.

Personnel Today reported in March that Dooley was one of the 3,213 workers on a blacklist compiled by the Consulting Association. Its services were used by 40 of the industry’s biggest contractors, who used the dossiers to discriminate against workers with a background of trade union activism.

At the time, construction union Ucatt called on the government to outlaw blacklisting after an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) found that 40 construction firms have been buying confidential data on workers from a body called The Consulting Association (TCA), in secret, for the past 15 years.

A raid on the TCA’s office, based in Droitwich, Worcestershire, revealed a serious breach of the Data Protection Act, according to the ICO. TCA stopped trading and the ICO took possession of its database.

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