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Wednesday 6th
posted by Conrad Landin in Britain

Umunna presents evidence of blacklisting at major building site

WORKERS are facing blacklisting at one of Britain’s largest construction sites, MPs heard today — but ministers are still refusing to hold a public inquiry.

In a debate in Westminster, Labour MP Chuka Umunna said he could “present compelling evidence” that blacklisting was “still going on” between “Crossrail and three of its contractors.”

He said emails proved that workers had been “closely watched” and subcontractors had been discouraged f r o m employing union activists.

The former shadow cabinet member argued that the “very strong inference” of the documents was that “some kind of vetting operation” was in place.

Last year a raft of major construction companies apologised in the High Court for using an illegal database of over 3,000 workers.

Some files spanned dozens of pages and included personal details that Mr Umunna said were likely to have been gathered with the collusion of the police and/or the security services.”

The SNP’s Chris Stephens said that blacklisting amounted to “punishing those who seek to stand up for and protect the health and safety of their fellow workers.”

Outside Parliament yesterday, blacklisted workers demonstrated against the awarding of the contract to refurbish Big Ben to blacklister firm Sir Robert McAlpine.

In February business minister Margot James rejected the calls for a public inquiry into blacklisting.

But after Mr Umunna’s revelations, she still shrugged off the calls. Ms James said she was “not at all complacent” about “completely unacceptable” blacklisting and had been “shocked” by Mr Umunna’s speech.

Asked by her Labour shadow minister Jack Dromey if companies currently found to be blacklisting workers would be banned from public contracts in future, she said she would consider the matter. “I think there is nothing to disagree with in what [Mr Dromey] said,” Ms James added.

But she suggested there was no need for an inquiry as workers could report blacklisting to the Information Commissioner. Pressed by the Star on this point after the debate, she said she was “going to review what Chuka’s given me” but that it was “premature for me to comment further at the moment.”

Blacklisted worker Frank Smith told the Star there was “evidence of contemporary blacklisting,” adding: “We know it because we experience it.”

A spokesperson for Crossrail said: “Crossrail Limited is not aware of, and has seen no evidence of, blacklisting of any kind in connection with the Crossrail project.

“In our recent meetings with Unite no such concerns have been raised with us. Indeed Unite has previously issued a joint statement with a Crossrail contractor noting that there has been no contravention of the blacklisting regulations on Crossrail.”