Blacklisting in Employment: Final Report - Scottish Affairs Contents

4  Conclusion

53. The odious practice of blacklisting has blighted the working lives of many people in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK. The extent of this practice, the measures required to stop it, and to make amends for the consequences of its use in the past, have already been the subject of three interim reports by this Committee during this Parliament. We stand by and reiterate the conclusions and recommendations of those reports.

54. In our second report on this matter, Blacklisting in Employment: addressing the crimes of the past; moving towards best practice, we welcomed the Welsh Government's pioneering approach to tackling blacklisting through public procurement.[63] One of the key elements of that approach was that companies who have participated in blacklisting should undertake self-cleaning before being allowed to bid for future public contracts.[64] We concluded that self-cleaning was an important step as it places responsibility on contractors to demonstrate how they have changed, and to make amends for their past blacklisting activity. We not only recommended that firms that have been involved in blacklisting should be required to demonstrate how they have self-cleaned before being allowed to tender for future public contracts, we were also of the view that firms which do not participate fully in an agreed compensation scheme after having been caught using the blacklisting service of the TCA or any similar conspiracy, should be deemed not to have 'self-cleaned'.[65] We welcome the Welsh Government's recent announcement (11 March 2015) which bans the use of false self-employment umbrella payroll contracts on public works contracts.[66]

55. In our previous reports we also concluded that the UK and devolved Governments should recognise the absolutely crucial role that they play as client or funders of the vast majority of construction work in the UK; and that the role of the client, properly exercised, allows enormous control, not only over the construction companies but also their subcontractors and suppliers.[67] As noted above, we recommended that firms that have been involved in blacklisting should be required to demonstrate how they have self-cleaned before being allowed to tender for future public contracts, and those who have not self-cleaned should not be allowed to tender for public contracts.

56. A central theme of our inquiry throughout has been to seek adequate redress for the victims of blacklisting and for their families. We have not made comment on the Group Litigation which is currently proceeding through the High Court, as this would not be appropriate. However, we have made regular comment on the Construction Workers Compensation Scheme, initially in an attempt to facilitate agreement between the scheme and the trade union workers in order to guarantee the most robust scheme and best possible outcome for the victims of blacklisting and their families.

57. This report focuses on that scheme. We are disappointed that agreement was not reached between the scheme and the trade unions and that the scheme was subsequently launched unilaterally. Despite lack of agreement, the material produced to launch the scheme- including a letter to all Members of Parliament- implied that agreement had been reached. This misleading wording has cast doubt on the sincerity and motives of the companies behind the scheme. Our disappointment was further compounded by some of the details of the scheme: the low levels of compensation being offered; the fact that those participating in the High Court litigation are not eligible to access the scheme; and the scheme's failure to incorporate any type of positive action measures to upskill and re-employ the victims of blacklisting.

58. Despite the flaws in the scheme, our main concern is that the victims of blacklisting receive at least some measure of compensation. We therefore call on the ICO to redouble its efforts to find and contact as many of those names who were on the original TCA list as possible. While we acknowledge the concerns the trade unions have in sharing data with the blacklisters, they should work with the ICO and the scheme to facilitate rather than obstruct this process. Our key concern is that whether through litigation or through participation in the compensation, workers, the victims of blacklisting and their families are compensated. This is why we recommend that the deadline to the scheme be extended to allow those participating in the litigation to also access the scheme.

59. While we have been critical of the scheme, the amounts of compensation offered and the motivations of the companies behind the scheme-we acknowledge they have at least taken a small step to acknowledge their past behaviour and make amends. Other companies have not stepped up to the mark-and have neither acknowledged their complicity in blacklisting not taken any steps to eradicate this practice in the future. This attitude, combined with inadequate voluntary codes of best practice in terms of recruitment in the sector does not provide us with a sufficient guarantee that the practice of blacklisting is an exclusively historic one.

60. Our concerns in this area have been exacerbated both by recent allegations in relation to the employment practices of Atlanco Rimec, and the dubious practices of bogus self-employment/umbrella companies as highlighted in our Zero hours contracts in Scotland report.[68] We stand by our previous recommendations that direct and transparent recruitment practices are by far the best way of eradicating blacklisting in the construction industry,[69] and that such practices should be standard for all public sector contracts in the construction industry.[70]

61. Despite the progress and positive steps which have been taken during the course of our inquiry, in this final report we have identified that many questions in relation to the practice of blacklisting remain unanswered. We are specifically concerned as to whether the extent and breadth of the practice is fully known, and whether this odious practice is ongoing within the construction industry. We are convinced that the only way to fully answer these questions is through a full Public Inquiry. We recommend that the Government take immediate steps to launch such an inquiry as a matter of priority in the new Parliament.

63   HC 543 para 30 Back

64   HC 543, paras 28-32 Back

65   Para 31 Back

66 Back

67   HC 543, Para 54 and HC 1291, para 7 Back

68   10th Report of Session 2013-14, Zero hours contracts in Scotland: Interim Report, HC 654, 14 April 2014, paras 111-113 Back

69   HC 543, para 42-48 and HC 1291, para 11 Back

70   HC 543 para 45 and HC 1291, para 11 Back

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Prepared 27 March 2015