Blacklisting the blacklisters: three ELL councils decide against using companies involved in blacklisting workers

Blacklist campaigners Pic: Chiara Rimella

Blacklist campaigners Pic: Chiara Rimella

After last week’s decision by Lewisham council to avoid hiring companies that have engaged in blacklisting activities, ELL investigates blacklisting practices in our four boroughs.

Three out of four ELL boroughs have condemned companies involved in the blacklisting scandal, which saw construction businesses prevent people from getting work if they raised health and safety complaints or they were active in trade unions.

Councillors from Lewisham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney have declared they will not choose such companies for contracts.

The blacklisting scandal came to light in September when a list compiled by The Consulting Association, a company that maintained the database of construction workers in the UK, was released.

The list, used by over 40 construction companies, detailed the profiles of 3,212 workers – including warnings such as ‘do not employ under any circumstances’. Almost 100 compensation claims were lodged at the High Court last week.

Last week, Lewisham Council unanimously approved a motion put forward by Councillor David Britton, Labour member for Grove Park, agreeing that the council would “urge all companies who have been involved in it to take all necessary action to compensate victims and to comply with regulations which have been introduced to prevent any recurrence of this abhorrent practice.”

The motion however does not legally bind the council to avoid hiring companies that involved in blacklisting. Some services in the borough, such as lighting, are administered by Skanska – one of the companies involved in the court action.

Britton said: “We know that our council does in fact treat such things very carefully. We will watch and see what happens in court. Revoking the contract is difficult, but we can decide not offer a new one.”

Britton suggested condemning the blacklisters may not be enough and that the council may need more binding rules to ensure it will not work with such companies.

He added: “I don’t think you can justify [blacklisting] at all. I expect it to be the basics of British justice that every person should know the nature of any accusations brought against them, and have a chance to defend yourself”

Tower Hamlets Council approved an emergency motion in September that supports the GMB union’s campaign against blacklisting as well as deeming it “unacceptable for any company in a contractual relationship with the council to engage in blacklisting”.

A Council spokesperson said: “Tower Hamlets Council is unequivocally against the use of blacklisting community workers which prevents them from accessing employment fairly.”

Luftur Rahman, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “I am proud to say that not only does Tower Hamlets not have any active contract with the companies involved in this practice, but that it never will.”

Councillor Rick Muir, Labour member for Hackney Downs, confirmed that the council is responding to the issue. He said that future construction tenders for the improvement of Hackney Homes and maintenance contract will forbid the use of prohibited lists, “unless appropriate and sufficient corrective action has subsequently been taken by the bidder.”

He added: “We are already excluding companies from tendering that have been found guilty of blacklisting.”

After several attempts to get a response, Croydon Council was unable to comment with regards to their policy on the issue.

However, the management of the borough’s libraries was recently taken over by Carillion, one of the companies involved in the blacklisting scandal after John Laing sold its dedicated Integrated Services arm.

When questioned about the review of the sale the Council carried out after the takeover, a spokesperson said that the company’s involvement in blacklisting did not affect the choice to approve the transaction.

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