Don't hire blacklisting companies, orders Hutt; PUBLIC BODIES TOLD TO BAN FIRMS WHO BAR WORKERS.
FINANCE MINISTER Jane Hutt has told public sector bodies they should block companies that blacklist trade union activists and other groups of workers they dislike from bidding for contracts.
In tough new guidance issued today, Ms Hutt has indicated her desire to eradicate blacklisting from Wales.
Blacklisting is a practice under which individuals have been denied employment opportunities because of their trade union membership or their involvement in trade union activity. It is known to have been used by construction companies operating in Wales, and to have involved Welsh construction workers. Environmental activists have also been blacklisted. A procurement advice note has been issued to all Welsh public bodies outlining the steps that can be taken through procurement to help wipe out blacklisting, which can be highly damaging to the careers and livelihoods of those affected.
The guidance makes clear where Welsh public sector bodies can exclude blacklisters from bidding for a public contract.
It says: "In 2009, the issue of blacklisting in the construction industry came to national prominence.
The media widely reported that the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) had carried out an investigation into a private business called The Consulting Association (TCA).
"The ICO found TCA had been providing a service to over 40 construction companies, many of them major companies in the construction sector, appraising the suitability for employment of individuals.
"It found a blacklist and files containing extensive information on more than 3,300 individuals across the UK, which was used to vet individuals and deny people employment for reasons including being a member of a trade union or having raised health and safety concerns. It is thought that over 100 of these individuals already identified live in Wales.
"An individual who ran TCA was prosecuted and fined for failing to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998 and register as a data controller."
The guidance goes on to outline the various Acts of Parliament that cover blacklisting, including the Employment Rights Act 2010, which encourages employers to re-examine whether their data and vetting practices when recruiting are consistent with the law and respect the privacy of individuals.
Ms Hutt said: "The use of blacklists is wholly unacceptable and I fully sympathise with the individuals and their families who have suffered a terrible injustice as a consequence of contractors engaging in this practice.
"Procurement is an important part of the overall policy toolkit of the Welsh Government. Under no circumstances is it acceptable for any business in receipt of public procurement expenditure to use blacklists.
"I am determined to take action in Wales. I trust that other governments in the UK will take similar action."
Mike Payne, political officer in Wales for the GMB union, said: "We warmly welcome this new guidance. The effects of blacklisting can be devastating on individuals who find themselves unable to work in their chosen trade. We are aware of cases that have resulted in marital breakdown, loss of home and in a couple of particularly tragic cases, people taking their own lives."
Justin Bowden, GMB national officer, added: "This fantastic announcement by the Welsh Government is a game changer. The message to the companies who blacklisted Welsh citizens is loud and clear: if you want public contracts in Wales then own up, clean up and pay up."
Construction union Ucatt also strongly welcomed the Welsh Government's new guidance.
Steve Murphy, Ucatt general secretary, said: "This is a massive step forward in the campaign for justice for blacklisted workers. The construction companies involved in blacklisting must understand this issue won't go away until they pay compensation."
Earlier this year Ucatt met First Minister Carwyn Jones to discuss blacklisting and how the Welsh Government could assist blacklisted workers.
Mr Murphy added: "The other devolved administrations and the UK Government should follow Wales' example and issue similar guidance. This will massively increase the pressure on blacklisted construction companies to pay compensation."
Finance Minister Jane Hutt AM at her Welsh Assembly office
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|Publication:||Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)|
|Date:||Sep 11, 2013|
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