Ian Lavery’s speech in parliament on blacklisting (abridged from Hansard)
The blacklisting of trade unionists is an unfair and insidious practice that involves the systematic compilation of information about individual trade unionists by their employers and recruiters in order to discriminate against them, although not just because they are members of trade unions.
There are people on blacklists who are not members of trade unions, but who have merely been to their employer and exercised their rights under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, as Dave Anderson said. If there is something wrong in the workplace, there is a duty under that Act to report it. As far as we are aware, people have suffered the consequences of doing that.
We are all very much aware of the information being discussed by the Scottish Affairs Committee. To be honest, I think it has been invaluable, because it has brought the issue to the forefront. For many years it has been hidden, but for the first time we now have real evidence…. Some 3,600 files were seized by the Information Commissioner’s Office—files on politicians, academics, journalists, trade unionists and people who might just say, “Boo!” to their employers, who might not like it.
There are many, many files. The Consulting Association’s blacklist, however, contained around 3,213 individuals and was used by more than 40 contractors, including most major UK construction firms, which vet individuals for employment.
A mass of information was left behind because it was not covered by any warrant. The information seized revealed that 40 of the biggest construction companies in Britain were drawn to paying money to find out who they should not employ. They included household names such as Taylor Woodrow, McAlpine, Balfour Beatty, Skandia and Carillion…
On its own admission, Carillion has had £2.5 billion per annum from public contracts, at the same time as placing ordinary citizens on blacklists and stopping them working. It cannot be allowed and it must be stopped as soon as practicably possible. From July to September 2008, McAlpine spent £12,839 making 5,836 blacklist checks—a total of 63 a day. That corresponded with McAlpine’s building of the Olympic stadium.
How disgraceful can you get? A major company such as McAlpine penalising people for whatever, at the same time as having multi-million-pound Government contracts, is, as many people have said, absolutely insidious.
I believe we should perhaps go a little further than we have discussed today. I am obviously willing for more debate and discussion; indeed… we should have a public inquiry into blacklisting on a par with Leveson. We need to call for those guilty of blacklisting not to be given any more public contracts until they apologise and compensate people and their families for blacklisting them. We definitely need a change in the law to make blacklisting a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment and unlimited fines.
That would be a deterrent for blacklisting—that is something that we should be looking at and it should be in legislation. Carillion has been named. It is important that other organisations come clean, come to the fore, step up to the plate, erase the past, look to the future and stop blacklisting people, causing mayhem and financial distress to many, many people.
My heart gans out to them people who might be listening to this debate and thinking, “I’ve not had a job for many years; I wonder if I’m on the list,” and they cannot find out whether they are. Let us deliver a real result from this debate for those people. …. Let us hope that this is the first of many important debates to ensure that justice is seen to be done for those on blacklists and to prevent blacklisting in the future.