GMB protest outside Big Lottery offices in Birmingham over employee’s role in blacklisting

by Direct 2 Lawyers on May 29, 2013

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The GMB has issued a press release detailing a protest that took place on 14 May outside the offices of the Big Lottery regarding blacklisting in the construction industry.

The GMB protested at the offices of Big Lottery on 14 May after it was revealed that an employee of the company was formerly allegedly implicated in the blacklisting scandal relating to the Consulting Association.

The union had apparently previously asked Ms Dianne Hughes, deputy director of Human Resources at The Big Lottery Fund, to give evidence to them relating to the blacklisting of workers in the construction industry but, according to the GMB’s press release, she refused. The GMB wanted to speak specifically to Ms Hughes as she was named by Mr Ian Kerr, former head of the Consulting Association blacklisting body, as the main contact for blacklisting enquiries at Costain, an international engineering and construction group.

The blacklisting scandal emerged in 2009 after a database was seized from the Consulting Association by the Information Commissioner’s Office (the “ICO”). This database apparently listed the details of 3,213 construction workers and environmental activists who were “blacklisted” because of their trade union activities or complaints about health and safety in workplaces. The rights to access this database were allegedly sold to 44 different companies who used the information to vet new recruits and ensure that no-one on the database gained employment with their companies.

Chris Hadrill, an employment solicitor at Redmans, commented on the case: “It is unlawful for employers to use ‘prohibited lists’ to blacklist workers because of their trade union affiliations, or because the worker has previously complained about health and safety in the workplace. The exposure of the Consulting Association prohibited list is a big step forwards for workers in the construction industry”.

The Employment Relations Act 1999 makes it unlawful to compile, use, sell or supply a “prohibited list” – a list containing details of persons who are or have been members of trade unions or people who are taking part or have taken part in trade union activities. If a worker thinks that they have been refused employment or dismissed (or subjected to some other detriment) for a reason related to a prohibited list (for example, their employer has found out through viewing a prohibited list that they are a member of a trade union) then they can start an Employment Tribunal claim. Compensation is based upon harm suffered – for example, loss of earnings or injury to feelings – but is capped at £65,300. Claims must be generally brought within three months less one day of the act complained of (e.g. the dismissal) although the deadline may be extended if it is just and equitable to do so in the circumstances (for example, if the dismissed worker only found out about the existence and use of the prohibited list at a later date). However, if a worker suspects that they have been discriminated against because they’ve been placed on a prohibited list then a “blacklisting claim” may be difficult to run because details of the existence and/or use of such a list will not be forthcoming.

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