Throw the book at blacklisters

20 August 2009

The government should send out a clear message that blacklisting union members is totally unacceptable and will be outlawed.

In our response to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ consultation on outlawing blacklisting (pdf), we have called for effective criminal and civil legislation to protect members from victimisation.

There needs to be proper enforcement, compensation and penalties to deter and punish blacklisters, and serious powers for the Information Commissioner's Office.

The definition should cover trade union membership or “activities associated with a trade union”, and “employment” should be broad to include employees, workers, freelances and self-employed workers.

We point out the proposed regulations should already have been implemented by the government, and state there must be legal redress for those currently affected by the activities of blacklisters to comply with article 11 of the European convention on human rights and other international treaties.

We believe that if the government is serious about ending blacklisting and victimisation, as indicated by Lord Mandelson in announcing the consultation, it should be a criminal offence that is dealt with effectively.

Definitions within the regulations need to be broad to prevent organisations exploiting loopholes, for example by using the broader definitions of personal data and data processing in the Data Protection Act.

The consultation was launched after the Information Commissioner reported in March (pdf) that 40 construction companies had subscribed to a database used to vet workers.

As proof of the limitations of the current legislation and ICO powers, Ian Kerr, who operated the database, was fined just £5,000 in July after admitting an offence under data protection law.

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