Chuka Umunna yesterday said a Labour government would launch a full public enquiry into blacklisting, writes Tim Lezard. Speaking at TUC in Liverpool, the Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “We will do what this governm …
Speaking at TUC in Liverpool, the Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “We will do what this government has refused to – launch a full enquiry, held publicly, into the inexcusable blacklisting of workers in the construction sector.
“Let me be clear. If I am given the privilege of serving as Business Secretary in the next Labour government we will deliver justice to those workers who lost their livelihoods and end blacklisting once and for all.”
His announcement was welcomed by UCATT, whose general secretary Steve Murphy said: “With every day that passes the construction companies that blacklisted workers and ruined their lives are seeing the net tighten around them. There will be no hiding place for blacklisters.”
In reply to a question from UCATT on whether the next Labour government would make blacklisting a criminal offence, Mr Umunna said: “I am open to whether criminal liability applies to this. I don’t want to prejudge the inquiry I have promised.
Umunna also pledged to scrap the new employment tribunal system, where workers have to pay to have their case heard.
He said: “Affordability should not be a barrier to workplace justice, but it would be a mistake to simply return to the system of the past, where tribunals were so slow that meaningful justice was not available.
“So if we are elected, the next Labour government will abolish the current system, reform the employment tribunals and put in place a new system which ensures all workers have proper access to justice.”
He called on trade unions to help transform their workplaces into competitive businesses to rival those in India and China.
“Too often trade unions only come to prominence in the media when things reach crisis point: during difficult pay negotiations, when a plan is under threat, during a dispute. That essential role for trade unions will continue.
“But we need unions to be engaged not just in times of dispute or crisis. But much earlier, in a continuous discussion, shaping the process of change. Working with our businesses to transform themselves, harness new technologies and compete with India, China and beyond.
“So at the level of each firm, we must be ready for these kind of discussion – as I know you are – and we need employers engaging with you, including you in this process.
“Promoting investment in people and the business, so we are producing goods and services each business can sell to the world. I am clear: adding value is what this movement does for our economy.
“And this approach is needed at the level of each industry sector too. It is essential trade unions are included and play an active part on different sector bodies in shaping the different industrial strategies we have.
“And government must of course play its role in the implementation of those industrial strategies across all departments, bringing employers and union reps together to help forge that future.”
He went on to accuse the Conservatives of “not understanding” unions, saying: “They see workers as a threat to be controlled, not as the inspiration for everything our companies achieve. They see unions as a brake on our nation’s success, not as partners building the new shared and fair economy we need. They say we’re all in this together, but their actions seek to divide and rule.”
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