Friday, 8 February 2013

Blacklisting of construction workers in Camden by ‘Consulting Association’

GMB, the union for construction workers, has revealed the areas in London where it is known that at least 454 workers on a construction industry blacklist either lived or worked. Less than 10% of them know they are on the list and none have been compensated.

At least 12 workers are from Camden. 

The blacklist first came to light when in 2009, the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) seized a ‘Consulting Association’ database of 3,213 construction workers which was used by 44 companies to vet new recruits and keep out of employment trade union and health and safety activists. The ICO has never contacted anyone on the list to let them know they were blacklisted.

By autumn 2012 only 194 of the 3,213 people on the blacklist knew three years later that they were on the list as these had contacted the ICO directly. The list shows where 2,554 lived or worked.  For 659, or20%, no proper addresses are given. The ICO using National Insurance details could, with help of DWP, find current addresses for most of 3,213 but they have not done so.

Construction workers from these areas who were trade union and health and safety activists and were denied work for reasons they could not explain are asked to get in touch so that GMB can cross check the records for them. 

One of my first jobs was campaigning for the Public Interest Disclosure Act, a law passed by Labour in 1998 to protect whistleblowers at work from reprisals. 

Our view is clear - blacklisting blights lives.  Firms contracted with Camden, involved in blacklisting should come clean on their past activities, as revealed by a recent debate in Parliament and by the GMB. Camden takes workforce rights in our outsourced work very seriously and took steps in 2011 to strengthen our stance on union recognition and anti-trade-union activity.

This is not just a question for the construction industry.  We have also spoken out against offshoring workers’ rights away from accepted European standards by big, often American, multi-nationals who have engaged in union-busting.

Camden has the biggest self-financed capital programme in London, now totalling nearly £1bn in public works: by 2020 Camden will build over 1000 new council homes, two libraries, a swimming pool, 3 primary schools and major repairs to 58 schools in Camden - including new buildings.  Our relationship with construction forms will therefore grow over the next few years. 

At this stage I know that the Council is contracted with BAM (Swiss Cottage Academy and Netley School).  Keir are building the new council offices in King's Cross and BAM are building King's Cross with Argent.  

I am in the process of confirming via officers which of the 30 (+) firms currently holds contracts with the Council - the list seems to include all of the major names construction industry.  We publish all monthly payments over £500 to suppliers here and have done so since 2010.

We introduced a new workforce standards code in 2011 which stresses compliance with the law for our contractors.

The GMB is calling on local councils not to award any new public work to the companies that operated the blacklist till they compensate those they damaged.  Hull Council have passed a motion to support the GMB campaign and we looking into the extent to which legislation permits us to remove companies who have been identified as using this information from our approved suppliers list for future work. 

As we will issue more contracts via the Community Investment Programme, at the very least we are pressing for clarity from the Chief Executives of firms we contract with. 

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