25 September 2013
Labour has promised to launch a full inquiry into blacklisting in the construction industry if the Coalition government fail to do so.
The vow was made by Chuka Umunna, Shadow Business Secretary, at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton. The present government has shown no inclination to look into the evidence that blacklisting practice continue in the industry, threatening the livelihoods of workers who dare to raise a voice against such things as unsafe conditions on building sites – particularly trade unionists.
Umunna told delegates the Labour Party was in agreement with the trade union movement that a government-led inquiry must take place into blacklisting. “It’s why if this government won’t launch a full inquiry into the disgraceful blacklisting in the construction industry, we will,” he said.
The Scottish Affairs Committee has been leading an inquiry into blacklisting over the past year, which has brought astonishing evidence to the fore, including that workers were blacklisted from working in the construction industry for reasons such as raising safety concerns. Evidence of continuing blacklisting at the Crossrail project has also been brought to the committee and a formerly blacklisted electrician at the site has recently been reinstated in his job after negotiations between the employer and Unite the Union.
The Coalition government continues to claim that blacklisting is an archaic practice that is no longer relevant to the modern age, using this as an excuse to ignore the issue. Labour’s promise is likely to bring hope to some of the thousands who have lost livelihoods in recent decades to the abhorrent operations of major firms like Balfour Beatty and Sir McAlpine.
The Institute of Employment Rights hopes that Labour’s response would prove to be radically different in the face of blacklisting this time around, after the former Labour government provided a very weak response to the revelations that The Consulting Association was keeping thousands of names on file in 2009.
After a consultation, which the IER responded to in its booklet for UCATT Ruined Lives, Labour brought in token measures against blacklisting but failed to outlaw it completely as a criminal offence or provide for affected workers to receive decent compensation from the companies involved.