The Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) has published its report on blacklisting in the construction industry, Ruined lives – blacklisting in the construction industry.
Unsurprisingly, the report criticises the Government and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for their handling of the scandal. It also raises several concerns about the Government’s proposed blacklisting regulations.
The scale of the problem
The report illustrates the possible scale of blacklisting in the construction industry by listing the amounts paid by construction companies to the Consulting Association in the financial year 2008/09. In addition to this, the report draws attention to the fact that many of the Consulting Association’s clients could not be identified, so the list of known clients “may only be the tip of the iceberg”.
The report uses this as the basis for arguing that strong and swift action must be taken to stop blacklisting.
Inadequate response to the scandal
The report draws attention to perceived inadequacies in the way the blacklisting scandal was handled. In particular, it:
- Highlights concern about the relatively light sentence imposed on Ian Kerr and “dismay” that the construction companies involved “got off scot-free”.
- Questions the ICO’s claim that it took action to the fullest extent possible under the law, noting that enforcement notices were only issued against 14 of the Consulting Association’s known clients. The report draws special attention to the fact that enforcement notices were not served on Sir Robert MacAlpine or Skanska Construction, the Consulting Association’s biggest customers.
- Asks why so little has been done to find those who supplied information about workers to the Consulting Association.
Changing the law
As expected, the report calls for an urgent change in the law. However, it criticises several aspects of the Government’s proposals, including:
- The Government’s view that the new regulations should only ban blacklisting for “trade union activities”. The report argues for a wider ban on blacklisting and points out that the Consulting Association did not limit itself to recording trade union activity, but also included information about workers who raised health and safety concerns and even a worker’s medical condition.
- The fact that, under the proposed regulations, maintaining or using a blacklist would be unlawful, but not a criminal offence. Individuals will have to bring civil proceedings to enforce their rights and will only receive compensation if they can prove a loss. The report also calls for retrospective compensation for blacklisted workers who suffered due to the activities of the Consulting Association.
Overarching all of its concerns, the report argues that workers should have a “right” not to be blacklisted and a “right” to compensation if they are.
Will the report achieve anything?
The report demonstrates UCATT’s determination to keep the blacklisting scandal in the public eye and the report’s contents will concern many of those associated with the blacklisting scandal, particularly those who have escaped punishment to date.
With a general election looming, the Government may take on-board some of the report’s detailed proposals, but it seems unlikely that any of its more radical suggestions will become law. Likewise, any longer term changes to the law seem unlikely if, as expected, the Conservative Party forms the next government.