Unions welcome report from Scottish Affairs Select Committee

Scottish Affairs Select Committee blacklistUnions have welcomed a call by MPs for a full public inquiry into blacklisting.

A report published today by the Scottish Affairs Select Committee accuses construction companies of misleading MPs over a compensation scheme for blacklisted workers.

It said the firms were more interested in minimising damage to their reputation and finances rather than a genuine attempt to tackle the scandal.

It describes the scheme as “misleading, callous and manipulative”, criticises it for being launched without the agreement of trade unions as well as the low levels of compensation offered and that those participating in High Court action are barred from accessing the scheme.

The committee also states it has no confidence in the sector to “self-cleanse” or to take robust steps to eradicate the practice of blacklisting. It believes that a voluntary code will not prevent blacklisting and that statutory regulations must be introduced. It also says that companies that refuse to self-cleanse should be barred from “all contracts funded, in whole or part, by public money.”

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “This report is a damning indictment of the underhand and cruel tactics that the construction industry employed against decent workers prepared to stand up and be counted on such issues as health and safety.

“The recommendations cover all the key points that Unite has raised with the committee. We welcome, in particular, the employment of ‘blacklisted’ workers. This is the only ‘proof positive’ that these major contractors are on the road to cleaning up their past dodgy employment practices.

“However, it is clear from the report that many companies are dragging their feet on the issue of compensation to remedy what the committee calls ‘the sins of the past’.

“Whoever is in government after May’s general election must respond to the repeated call for a full public inquiry into the long-running issue of ‘blacklisting’.

“The Scottish Affairs Committee, as a whole, and its chair Ian Davidson have shone a light on this murky world of blacklisting. We are indebted to them for their work and dedication in seeking out truth and justice.”

GMB national officer Justin Bowden said: “This excellent report is to be welcomed for two key reasons: first, the fact that its very strong recommendations are made on a cross political party basis; second, the clear way it reflects how sick to death the MP’s of all parties and everyone else is of the construction companies and their arrogant, bully boy attitude.

“The construction companies actions towards those they blacklisted since they got caught shows that they believe they did nothing wrong, membership of the Consulting Association shows how they believed that they were above the law and their attitude towards MPs shows that they believe they are above Parliament.

“Strip away the weasel words and crocodile tears from the blacklisting companies and their highly paid entourage of spin doctors and lawyers and the simple truth is that MP’s of all political parties involved in the Inquiry into Blacklisting in Employment do not trust the companies to eradicate blacklisting and do not believe they have, or will self-cleanse.

The only way the questions posed by the Scottish Affairs Committee will get answered is from a full Public Inquiry.”

UCATT general secretary Steve Murphy: “The Scottish Affairs Select Committee has condemned the counterfeit compensation scheme in the strongest possible terms. The scheme has no credibility and workers who have had their lives ruined have seen that TCWCS is simply a cheap way to gag them and deny them justice.

“Given recent revelations about how the police and security forces were involved in infiltrating trade unions and supplying information to the Consulting Association to blacklist workers, the Committee has called on the government to hold a full public inquiry into blacklisting.

“Every week there are more grubby revelations about the involvement of the state in blacklisting. The only way we are going to get the truth is through a full public inquiry. This puts fresh pressure on the government to launch a public inquiry so workers and their families whose lives were ruined can learn the full truth once and for all.

“Blacklisting will only be eradicated  through strict laws, with blacklisters facing criminal charges, a voluntary code would be worse than useless. Until blacklisters own up, pay up and clean up they should be barred from bidding for public sector contracts.

“The work of the Scottish Affairs Committee and its chair, Ian Davidson MP, in exposing blacklisting has been absolutely invaluable. Without the committee’s hard work, diligence and perseverance, the recent strides in unmasking the blacklisters and the slow battle to make them pay for their actions would have been impossible.”

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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