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New anti-blacklisting rules are too weak says UCATT

It is now unlawful for trade union members to be denied employment through blacklists, under new rules that came into effect on May 2, but the construction trade union UCATT says the rules fail to go far enough.
New anti-blacklisting rules are too weak says UCATT
To prevent employers from blacklisting workers for their trade union membership or activities, the UK government introduced new rules on March 2, banning the practice.

The regulations:

• make it unlawful for organisations to refuse employment or sack individuals as a result of appearing on a blacklist;

• make it unlawful for employment agencies to refuse to provide a service on the basis of an individual appearing on a blacklist;

•enable individuals or unions to pursue compensation or solicit action against those who compile, distribute or use blacklists.

'Blacklisting someone because they are a member of a trade union is underhand, unfair and blights people's lives,' said employment relations minister Lord Young.

Lord Young added: 'The new regulations outlaw the compilation, dissemination and use of blacklists. They have been designed to build on existing protections in the area which are found in trade union and data protection law. Good employers who operate fair and open vetting processes have nothing to fear from these regulations. I am confident this new piece of legislation will bring to an end the disreputable practice of blacklisting once and for all'.

UCATT (Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians), has said it is bitterly disappointed with the new anti-blacklisting regulations and say the measures are so weak that they will not prevent blacklisting from occurring.

'The government has entirely rejected all UCATT submissions and attempts to have the regulations amended to ensure that blacklisting was stamped out. Fortunately for Lord Young blacklisting doesn't occur in the House of Lords but ordinary construction workers are not so privileged', said Alan Ritchie, general secretary of UCATT.

UCATT which represents 125,000 members employed in the construction industry in the UK and Ireland, have argued that the regulations were deficient as they did not make blacklisting a specific criminal offence and only prevented workers from being blacklisted for undertaking, the narrowly defined, 'trade union activities'.

It says the government has given the green light to employers to blacklist workers for undertaking unofficial industrial action, which could include stopping work due to safety fears or a refusal to undertake voluntary overtime.

'The regulations also fail to grant an automatic right to compensation for any worker who discovers that they have been blacklisted. If a blacklist is discovered workers will not be automatically told that they had been blacklisted.

Ritchie added: 'Cynical construction employers will recognise the weakness of the regulations and could continue to blacklist workers. They know that they are unlikely to get caught and if they do they will merely get a slap on the wrist. UCATT will continue to campaign to have the regulations overhauled so that they are truly effective in stamping out this despicable practice once and for all.'

The government's move follows a public consultation on revised draft regulations which took place between July 7 and August 18, 2009. This followed evidence that a number of employers in the construction sector had been unlawfully vetting workers.

In March 2009, the Information Commissioner reported that 40 construction companies had subscribed to a database used to vet construction workers, which has now been closed under data protection law. On July 16, Ian Kerr, the man who operated the database, was fined £5,000 for committing a criminal offence under data protection law. In response to the new evidence on May 11, 2009, the government said it would seek to bring forward legislation to outlaw blacklisting.
2 March 2010


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