UK law provides no remedy for “genuine injustice” of blacklisting

22 Jan 2014| News

(L-R) Declan Owens, David Renton, Dave Smith, John Hendy QC

(L-R) Declan Owens, David Renton, Dave Smith, John Hendy QC

22 January 2014

An Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has confirmed that UK law provides no remedy for blacklisted workers employed through recruitment agencies, highlighting the need for new legislation to ensure those harmed through the practice are properly compensated.

The EAT, led by Mrs Justice Slade, agreed that former Carillion worker Dave Smith had “suffered an injustice from blacklisting” perpetrated by the construction company, and also raised concerns about human rights violations identified in the firm’s behaviour.

However, it was forced to agree with the original Employment Tribunal (ET) that UK law did not allow for any compensation to be made to Mr Smith because he was not employed directly by Carillion, but was an agency worker.

The original ET stated in its judgement: “We have reached our conclusions with considerable reluctance. It seems to us that he has suffered a genuine injustice and we greatly regret that the law provides him with no remedy.”

Mr Smith – now leader of the Blacklist Support Group, which campaigns for justice for blacklisted workers – was represented by Chair of the Institute of Employment Rights John Hendy QC alongside David Renton and Declan Owens via the Free Representation Unit.

The EAT agreed with Mr Hendy that Carillion’s blacklisting of Mr Smith contravened both Article 8 and Article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights. It was previously identified during the original ET that managers within several Carillion Group companies had actively blacklisted workers for such reasons as raising safety concerns on site and being a member of a trade union.

Mr Smith was blacklisted after he highlighted dangerous conditions on several building sites in Essex and London in his capacity as Safety Rep with construction union UCATT.

His case provides further evidence that UK law does not do enough to protect workers from underhand practices like blacklisting, despite the Coalition’s insistence that legislatory changes have already remedied the situation.

In fact, blacklisting has not been technically outlawed and with so many agency workers engaged on construction sites across the UK, many are vulnerability to falling through the same loophole that has left Mr Smith with nowhere to turn within his home country. He is now forced to take his fight to the European Court of Justice, for which Mr Hendy and his team are currently preparing an appeal.

“Being a union member is not against the law,” Mr Smith stated. “Raising concerns about asbestos is not against the law.

“But despite mountains of documentary evidence proving that construction firms were systematically blacklisting union members who questioned safety standards, it seems that big business are above the law.”