Library deal questioned as council blacklists the blacklisters

Croydon Council is set to stop using building contractors that have blacklisted workers for their union affiliations, following Labour winning last week’s local elections, the trade magazine Building is reporting. The policy of the new council could also place Carillion, the borough’s controversial library operators, in an untenable position.

Tony Newman: manifesto commitment to act against blacklisting in construction industry

Tony Newman: Labour manifesto commitment to act against blacklisting in the construction industry

“Blacklisting came to light in 2009 when the Information Commissioners’ Office seized the database of the now infamous Consulting Association that contained the details of 3,213 construction workers and environmental activists used by 44 companies to vet new recruits,” the magazine reports.

Tony Newman, the new leader of Croydon Council, included an undertaking in his party’s election manifesto which stated,  “Any company known to have been involved in blacklisting which has not apologised to and compensated their victims and corrected such practices will not be awarded contracts by a Labour council.

“We will use our influence to work with any existing council contractors involved in these practices to ensure they own up, clean up and pay up.”

The position is expected to become council policy from next week, when the Labour group, which won 40 of the Town Hall’s 70 seats, formally takes office for the first time in Croydon since 2006.

With Croydon Council part of a £450 million joint venture CCURV urban regeneration vehicle with John Laing, the blacklister ban may have some interesting consequences.

The decision is also likely to impact the running of the borough’s public libraries, which are managed (if that’s quite the word) by Carillion, whose construction business is currently subject to two High Court challenges over their blacklisting of union members from working on their building sites.

carillion-logoInside Croydon reported on Carillion’s dark blacklisting history last October, here.

Dave Smith, from the Blacklist Support Group, welcomed Croydon Council’s position. “Blacklisting of union members is a major human rights scandal,” Smith said.

“The Labour movement needs to respond with action, not just words. The news that Croydon Council will ban blacklisting firms from pubic contracts is a major step forward – it should be followed by every local authority in the country,” Smith said.

Richard Gillingham, the West Croydon branch secretary of the PCS union which represents many employees of the Home Office, one of the borough’s bigger employers, welcomed the new council’s stance. “Safe workplaces depend upon employees being able to report safety concerns without fear of their employers blacklisting them and depriving them of a livelihood for doing so,” Gillingham said. He called the new council policy “a powerful message to these companies that such exploitative activities will not be tolerated”.

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3 Responses to Library deal questioned as council blacklists the blacklisters

  1. davidcallam says:

    The final paragraph of Tony Newman’s statement, quoted above, suggest to me that there is a significant amount of wriggle room in the policy in relation to existing contractors.

    I imagine the discussions with Carillion could go on for some time.

    That said, I think the policy is right for Croydon and I look forward to seeing it coupled with one that insists all council contractors pay the London living wage.

  2. Andrew Leng says:

    Croydon’s decision to stop using contractors involved in blacklisting is a very positive and welcome step. It has been rife in the construction industry for a number of years and has blighted and ruined the lives of so many workers who have been targeted for being members of trade unions, or for having the bravery to speak out against unsafe working conditions.

    Blacklisting is abhorrent and those companies found to be actively involved in blacklisting should be excluded from public contracts. As my PCS West Croydon colleague Richard Gillingham has rightly pointed out, safe workplaces depend upon employees being able to report safety concerns, without fear that their employer could victimise them.

    At the PCS Annual Delegate Conference held in Brighton last week, it was an issue that was widely discussed and several motions were tabled on the subject of blacklisting, which the PCS National Executive Committee enthusiastically supported.

    I did write to local MP; Gavin Barwell on this very subject, on the 22nd January 2013, asking him to support an Early Day Motion that had been tabled by the Labour Party. Responding a week later he said he wouldn’t support this because he believed that there was….“no is no evidence that blacklisting of trade union members is a widespread problem and as such the Government does not believe that there is a need for further steps at this time…” He also explained that he never signed any EDMs as “they are an ineffective way of raising/addressing important issues”. A view I found quite strange because EDMs attract a great deal of public and widespread media interest.

    So in truth Barwell had little or no interest in the subject. Therefore it’s good to see our newly elected local Councillors taking the lead and making a principled stance on this odious and immoral practice.

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