Saturday, 12 December 2009

The Blacklist & My Part In Its Downfall by Brian Bamford, Secretary of Tameside TUC

Overshadowed by the DAF dispute and the findings of the Manchester Employment Tribunal; in 2005, at the National Conference of Trade Union Councils (TUCs) in Liverpool, Alec McFadden, North West Rep. of the TUC Joint Consultative Committee, moved an emergency motion against the blacklist, which he argued was mainly being perpetuated by employers in the private sector. I, as the delegate of Tameside Trade Union Council, seconded this motion pointing out that one of the DAF managers, Michael Fahey, had stated under oath to the Tribunal that an officer in what was then Amicus had been involved in deliberations about the blacklisting of certain Manchester electricians. These were subsequently dismissed and took part in a picket against DAF in Piccadilly and later in Crown Square. The motion before the National Conference was overwhelmingly supported and it was referred to the Trade Union Congress in London for its consideration.

At the next National Conference of TUCs in Torquay, in 2006, the Trade Union Congress replied, as I recall, to the effect that since evidence for a blacklist in the UK was only 'anecdotal' the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI), as it then was, would not act. About that time in 2006, Alan Wainwright, a former manager in the British building trade who had by then become a whistle-blower, had published a blog showing over a thousand names of individuals in UK construction, who, he claimed, had been on a national blacklist. Construction News had just run a front page article on the issue Mr Wainwright had exposed. Late Pat McFadden, of BERR which replaced the DTI, was to argue in a letter to a MP for one of the blacklisted Manchester electricians that though the Government was aware of Mr Wainwright's allegations and his use of the list to exclude people from employment, it seemed that he couldn't define the criteria used to by the firms to put people on the list. Hence nothing further was done.

It was only this year, with the raid of the Information Commissioner in February, that Ian Kerr was caught with a smoking gun and a list of 3,213 names on an illegal database held by the Consulting Association that things started to happen. Confronted with this evidence the Government at last had to act and Lord Mandelson issued a statement to this effect soon afterwards. Last Wednesday (2nd December 2009), the Government issued its response to its consultation on the outlawing of blacklisting in the UK. A week later Employment law pundit Professor Keith Ewing has given his verdict that the Government's proposed new regulations are not much to write home about.

Is this just another Government fudge? Just more cosmetic laws to cover up inaction against the bosses' discrimination against safety reps. and shop-floor activists?

Free-lance journalist, Phil Chamberlain, claimed on his blog [December 8th, 2009]: 'In fact the Government's consultation document appears to give the green light to employers to blacklist in certain circumstances.'

Chamberlain argues: 'The difference is clearest in event of workers stopping work due to serious safety concerns. This is considered to be unofficial industrial action. Such unofficial action, which is legal, would not be covered by the proposed regulations and companies could continue to discriminate [against] workers who took part in such a stoppage.' Mr Chamberlain thinks the Government doesn't do anything to discourage such blacklisting when it says: 'The Government believes such [unofficial] industrial action is especially disruptive and injurious to orderly industrial relations because, by definition, the trade union has not endorsed and controlled it.'

Alan Ritchie, General Secretary of the union UCATT, said of the proposed new regulations: 'Not only are these regulations entirely inadequate, the Government's consultation response favours the continuation of blacklisting in certain circumstances.'

It seems the Government's 54-page document fails to deal with the everyday blacklisting of safety reps. and activists; and Phil Chamberlain says: '[this] was a notable feature of the Consulting Association's blacklisting practices.' UCATT is anxious about the proposed law's failure to protect safety representatives and its allowance of 'vetting' by bosses for activities other than trade union matters, meaning that workers who the boss considers to be troublemakers will still be blacklisted.

Maybe I'll just have to wait a bit before I can blow my own trumpet about my part in the downfall of the UK blacklist.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the extended quotes and link Brian.
However those attributed to me are actually from Ucatt gen sec Alan Ritchie. I was quoting a press release they put out about the blacklist.
But I think you raise an interesting point about when the blacklist first became public.
I think Kerr's name was mentioned in court in the Daf case and of course if you wanted to ask Ucatt they would have told you blacklisting existed.
Except the media never bothered to ask and neither, with honourable exceptions, did parliament.

bammy said...

Ian Kerr's name didn't crop up in the Daf case Phil. It seems it came out as a consequence of Alan Wainwright's efforts to expose him in 2005.