Banned Aid

In March this year the Information Commissioner took enforcement action against the Consulting Association, which had been operating a secret blacklist of employees in the construction industry, including details of trade union activity. We posted about this story here, earlier this year.

Today, the Guardian has extensive coverage of what has happened since.

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has now consulted on draft regulations under section 3 of the Employment Relations Act 1999. The consultation ended on 18th August 2009. The proposed regulations are intended to outlaw the compilation, dissemination and use of blacklists of trade unionists. They would make it unlawful to refuse employment, or to dismiss employees or subject them to a detriment, for reasons related to a prohibited blacklist. Individuals who suffer loss through blacklisting would be able to bring claims either in the Employment Tribunal or in the civil courts, depending on the nature of their complaint.

The trade union UCATT commissioned a report from the Institute of Employment Rights about the proposed regulations. The report, by Professor Keith Ewing, was published on 15th September 2009: it is entitled “Ruined Lives”, and deals specifically with blacklisting in the construction industry. It includes sample material from Consulting Association files.  The report gives a fascinating history of the practice of blacklisting, going back to the late 19th century. It suggests a number of changes to the draft Regulations, including: that keeping or using a blacklist, or supplying information to it, should be a criminal offence; and that there should be a right to compensation for the fact of being included on a blacklist, even if the inclusion does not lead to any loss.

A further point to note about the draft Regulations is that they deal specifically with the blacklisting of trade unionists (as does section 3 of the 1999 Act). So they would not assist individuals who had been blacklisted for other reasons; e.g. because of their political beliefs and affiliations, or because they have a history of raising concerns about health and safety issues.

A number of individuals have brought employment tribunal claims arising out of alleged blacklisting. The claims have been consolidated and there will be a case management discussion in Manchester ET on 24th November 2009. This blog gives further information.

Meanwhile the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has taken control of the Consulting Association database. Individuals who think that they may have been blacklisted can contact the ICO; for more information, see this page of the ICO’s website.