This is taken from an article in the Guardian Work section 28/06/08 by Phil
For 30 years it has been illegal to sack a worker for
his or union activities and it is commonly thought that blacklisting is also
against the law. It was included in the 1999 Employment Relations Act, but in a
discreet U-turn the government never formally brought in regulations to bring
it to the statute book. Technically it remains legal.
Steve Acheson found out the truth when a subcontractor
at the Manchester hospital site ‘let him go.’ At the tribunal Alan Wainwright,
a former manager in the construction industry, testified that blacklisting of
trade unionists does go on. He affirmed that, “Certain UK construction
companies and their mechanical and electrical subsidiaries operate a blacklist
procedure to ensure certain electrical operatives do not gain employment on
their projects.” Firms of private eyes sell lists of ‘troublemakers’ to these
The tribunal’s conclusion was, “Disgraceful though it
is, the tribunal concludes that a blacklist exists in relation to certain
workers in the industry in which the claimants work, and that the claimants are
on that blacklist.” They found for Acheson.
Ucatt responded, “Blacklisting remains an issue in the
construction industry. When companies refuse to hire skilled workers for no
apparent reason, someone is pulling the strings in the background.” The
Construction Confederation denies flat that blacklisting takes place. ‘Prove
it,’ is their riposte. The tribunal did prove it. The Construction
Confederation has been caught bang to rights. So they coo like a dove,
“Blacklisting is not the practice of a good employer.” Well, quite.
As Phil Chamberlain points out Guardian journalists Richard Norton-Taylor and Mark
Hollingsworth wrote a book Blacklist in 1988 chronicling the list
of 30,000 ‘subversives’ held by the Economic league. The vampire-like Economic
League expired in 1993, unable long to survive being brought into the light of
A spokesperson for the Department of Business said
they had carried out a consultation and decided that, as blacklists don’t exist
in Britain, legislation was unnecessary. But they do exist and legislation is
necessary. All it takes is laying a piece of paper on the table of the House of
Commons. New Labour’s idea of consultation is having a gin and tonic with the
bosses and listening to their lies.
John McDonnell makes the case for the prosecution.
“Blacklisting is a covert, insidious employment practice,” he comments. “These
regulations were meant to send out a message that it would not be tolerated
under this government. Many trade unionists and our supporters will be
disappointed at the government’s failure to act.”
If bosses can blacklist trade union activists, then we simply don’t have
the right to join a union in this country.