06 October 2017
The government has refused to take action on known blacklisters in the construction industry by barring them from public sector contracts, despite contemporary evidence that the practice continues.
In a parliamentary debate last month, Labour MP Chuka Ummuna presented the Commons with “compelling evidence” that workers for Crossrail and three of its contractors were being denied employment after raising health and safety concerns.
The government refused to commit to a public inquiry in that instance, but SNP MP Chris Stephens followed up with Junior Business Minister Margot James to ask for blacklisters to be barred from public sector contracts.
He has since received a reply from the Minister, washing her hands of the affair. “It is up to individual contracting authorities to apply these measures and take steps to be confidence in the current practices of their contractors,” she said.
Commenting, Unite added further evidence of informal blacklisting practices in the construction industry, referring to a case in which a Unite member raised health and safety concerns after a steel frame was nearly dropped from a tower crane at a London site while he was working for Turkish sub-contractor Metalyapi.
Following this incident, the Unite member was offered new work with a different company on the same project, and underwent his induction before being told there was no job for him.
The Unite convenor on the site looked into his case and found no clear reason not to re-employ him, as his record was spotless. On querying this with the business owner, the convenor discovered the termination was made after Metalyapi had been contacted and they had illegally recommended that he not be employed. The convenor was told: “You would not want him on site anyway as he cost the contractor a lot of money.”
Unite Assistant General Secretary, Gail Cartmail, said: “Once again the government is washing its hands on blacklisting at a time when Unite is uncovering more new cases. What you get with this government is warm words but no action.”
The Institute of Employment Rights has recommended in our Manifesto for Labour Law – which informed the Labour Party’s 20-point Fair Deal for Work in its 2017 General Election Manifesto – that blacklisting should attract criminal sanctions.