Blacklisting in Employment: Final Report - Scottish Affairs Contents

3  An historic practice?

Contemporary blacklisting

47. In July 2014, trade union representatives told us that they believed that the practice of blacklisting in the construction industry was ongoing. Justin Bowden identified Atlanco Rimec as a "contemporary blacklister", and stated with "all confidence" that Atlanco Rimec has been undertaking blacklisting of workers in the extremely recent past.[55] Atlanco Rimec was set up in 1994 as a recruitment agency in Ireland. It is now a multi-national organisation with offices in the UK, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Cyprus and Poland. It consists of a "complex and sophisticated web of over 60 companies" throughout Europe, but is essentially an Employment Agency with a database of over 50,000 names.[56]

48. Of particular concern to us was the allegation made by the trade union representatives that several of the companies who operated the Consulting Association database use Atlanco Rimec to provide labour for them. Justin Bowden claimed to have "uncovered an apparent crossover" between those two lists.[57] Gail Cartmail suggested that "the spread of the effect of this [Atlanco Rimec] blacklisting is possibly wider than even those companies that subscribed to TCA".[58] We have not been in a position to explore these claims in greater detail, but suggest that this issue is pursued by our successor Committee in the new Parliament.

Code of Conduct

49. In our previous reports we noted that the real test of whether or not a company has self-cleansed included a number of elements, including a transparent employment policy and positive action measure to upskill and re-employ previously blacklisted workers. A TCWCS statement noted that:

    all eight companies recognise that the activities of TCA were unacceptable and regret their involvement; they are sorry that information was held about individuals and for any hardship suffered as a result. To demonstrate their commitment to ensuring that such activity remains firmly in the past, the companies intend to sign up to the voluntary code of conduct that is being developed by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development to ensure full transparency in pre-employment vetting processes.[59]

Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD (the professional body for HR and people development) confirmed that he had been contacted by the schemes administrators in December 2013 to produce a Code of Conduct on Pre-Employment vetting specifically for the construction sector.[60] However, given the attitude of the majority of the companies complicit in this practice in the past, and the concerns noted above that the practice of blacklisting may be ongoing, Gail Cartmail identified the need for a "statutory code of practice".[61]

50. Given the denial and duplicitous practices we have encountered on the part of many of the companies who were complicit in blacklisting, we have no confidence in the sector to neither self-cleanse on a voluntary basis nor to take sufficiently robust steps to eradicate the practice of blacklisting in the future. A voluntary code of conduct for pre-employment vetting in the construction company is insufficient. A statutory code of practice is required.

Police and Security Service involvement

51. During the timeframe of our inquiry, there have been regular allegations in the press in relation to police and security service involvement in blacklisting. We did not pursue this issue - as it detracted from the main focus on the two main issues of seeking redress for blacklisted workers and recommending changes in term of procurement and best practice in employment in an attempt to eradicate the practice of blacklisting in the construction industry. In early March 2015, UCATT published a statement which stated that "the union was infiltrated by the Metropolitan Police's Special Demonstration Squad (SDS). The revelation creates fresh questions about the police's role in the blacklisting of trade unionists and their covert manipulation of working class organisations".[62]

52. We are not in a position to comment on recent allegations in relation to police and security service involvement in blacklisting in the construction and other sectors. However, the allegations raise doubt as to whether all the information in relation to the full extent of the practice is the numbers of those affected is known, and is in the public domain. We recommend that our successor Committee should pursue this issue.

55   Q 3703 Back

56   GMB written evidence. (BIE0003) Back

57   Ibid. Back

58   Q 3708 Back

59 Back

60   Letter from Mr Peter Cheese, 13 March 2015 Back

61   Q 3673 Back

62 On 12 March 2015,Neil Findlay MSP submitted motion number S4M-12653to the Scottish Parliament which highlighted the issue of security service involvement. The motion read as follows:That the Parliament welcomes the launch on 12 March 2015 in the House of Commons of the book, Blacklisted, by Dave Smith and Phil Chamberlain; notes that the book exposes what it argues is an illegal blacklisting scandal orchestrated by some of the largest multinational construction companies in the UK; understands that it uncovers previously unseen documentary evidence about the role of undercover police spying units in colluding with this and exposes the way in which ordinary men and women were believed to be systematically denied employment simply for standing up for their basic rights, and further understands that across Scotland and the rest of the UK these companies are still being awarded publicly-funded contracts despite never admitting wrongdoing nor apologising and paying compensation to the workers affected Back

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Prepared 27 March 2015