Blacklisting demonstrates the extent to which Cameron hates the Trade Unions

December 20, 2012 2:03 pm

The consequences of Lord Justice Leveson’s report will be debated long into the New Year by some sections of the broadcast media whilst the print papers will probably look to avoid any mention of the esteemed Judge’s name. That’s not surprising. Nor was the fact that the Prime Minister surrendered to Fleet Street even before the ink had dried on a report that carried the personal authority of – well – the Prime Minister himself, and had cost the taxpayer £5.6 million.

Perhaps what is surprising is how much of Leveson’s report has fallen by the way side. I was particularly interested in his recommendation which suggested that the newspaper industry work harder to more accurately define the “public interest”. As newspaper sales continue to dwindle, they must find a way of recapturing what it is that truly resonates with the public.

I believe that Fleet Street’s finest are at their best when they are exposing corruption, fraud and illegality, not when it is uncovering stories of who slept with whom and who lost weight versus who gained it and other such pap.

The MPs’ expenses scandal was a first class example. It shocked the country, it changed the culture of parliament and it is still making headlines three years later.

So that is why I am so shocked that an issue which has been described by one of the UK’s most respected public law professors, as “the worst human rights abuse in relation to workers” for more than half a century in Britain, is not demanding more attention of the newspaper proprietors.

Seumas Milne wrote about this issue in the Guardian. He demonstrates what I have been campaigning for in parliament through the tabling of my early day motion; blacklisting is a great wrong against hard working men and women and the Government isn’t doing a thing about it.

The very people who are supposed to protect the public are, instead, abandoning them. The previous Labour Government did pass the 2010 Blacklisting laws, but it hasn’t proved to be strong enough. But if Leveson proved that Cameron can often be too cosy with the press, Blacklisting demonstrates the extent to which he hates the Trade Unions and is willing to allow people to suffer as a result.

For those who are not as au fait with the travesty of blacklisting as others let me be clear what we are talking about.

Major UK companies have been paying annual subscriptions to ‘spying’ companies that produce lists for private sector companies which include information collected on workers. And it is not just the basic name, address, employment history either. The kind of information contained in the brief includes comments such as: “recently seen at a leftwing meeting”, “politically motivated” and “involved in a dispute” in previous jobs. The long and short is that companies are not hiring anyone they know are represented by a Trade Union because they want to be able to waive workers’ rights as and when they wish.

It is like an episode from our Cold War history and our leaders are choosing not to act.

The phone-hacking scandal revealed that illegal activity was rife in some of our newspaper newsrooms. What blacklisting research has revealed is that, as Milne articulates, the “illegality, surveillance and conspiracy is incontrovertible”. There is no ambiguity. Workers who are members of Trade Unions are being turned away from jobs – including jobs undertaking work awarded to companies through the public sector.

The truth is, the cost of blacklisting may not ever be calculated. We don’t fully know how much it is costing the economy in lost income, “enforced joblessness, family and psychological breakdown, emigration and even suicides” or even in NHS treatment.

What we need now is action. There is a tendency in Britain today, to stereotype everyone on benefits as scroungers. And yet here we have the reality; ordinary skilled workers who have worked and who want to work being told they can’t work, whilst millionaires like David Cameron and George Osborne who have never worked and simply inherited vast amounts of wealth, are sitting pretty.

Puts it into perspective doesn’t it? And it challenges the conventional orthodoxy that is used by Tories in the Chamber of the House of Commons but which only serves to reinforce the point that Ed Miliband made which is, that the people who have been blacklisted are the kind of people that Cameron will never meet and never understand.

Earlier this year I tabled an EDM regarding the need for justice for blacklisted workers that were unwillingly and unknowingly on lists ascertained by 44 construction companies.

There are some steps that should be followed urgently. Right now, the Information Commissioners Office must work far harder to seize all documentation and files relating to blacklisted workers from the Consulting Association. Only then will we know the full picture. Secondly, the Chancellor, along with Vince Cable and Iain Duncan Smith must now accept that the existing blacklisting regulations do not offer enough protection and are not fit for purpose, and that it should be a criminal offence to supply, compile, solicit or use information in connection with a prohibited list.

We know that the police and security services were complicit in compiling these lists of information on blacklisted workers that were then sold to companies for their information. In fact, we also know that the extent of corruption is much broader, with lists being compiled, not only on construction workers, but on academics and journalists as well.

Thirdly, all victims of blacklisting must be paid compensation immediately so that they can begin to rebuild their lives devastated by this practice.

Finally, I believe that we should have a full scale public inquiry into the blacklisting scandal so that there can be no cover up and we can get to the bottom of the corruption that successive governments have allowed to manifest for too long.

Blacklisting is a first class example of how the workplace has been corrupted and how those in positions of power have abused that power at the expense of the ordinary man and women in this country. We must take this issue seriously.

Steve Rotheram is the Labour MP for Liverpool Walton and member of the NEC

  • Daniel Speight

    Stick with this Steve.

  • Amber_Star

    We know you will have questions asked in PMQs etc. as often as you can! But are there no lawyers who will take their cases pro-bono? Or is there any possibility of a ‘fighting fund’ being set up which would allow us & their unions to donate enough to get the legal process started? If we don’t, then these people are in limbo until 2015 because there’s no chance of the coalition doing anything for them!

  • paul burke

    well put i remeber a few years ago they had blacklist compiled by an organation called somthing league few friends of mine got put on it never worked again hink it might of been ecnomic

  • http://www.facebook.com/dave.smith.52 Dave Smith

    Thanks for persistently raising the issue Steve – there are many blacklisted workers watching on and there are only a few MPs prepared to fight our corner.

  • Jeremy_Preece

    Tolerating the undemocratic and sinister practice of illoegally holding information (some of it false) on individuals in order to prevent them from getting work. Another great ploicy from teh government that recently brought you the notion that even the most outragous behavoiur of the press cannot be regulated by law as it would “threaten freedom of speech”.
    The Tory concept of freedom is rather flexible.

Latest

  • Comment Labour is the real party of the family

    Labour is the real party of the family

    It has been a pleasure to guest edit LabourList today on the hugely important issue of families. We’ve had fantastic contributions from a wide range of people. All of the pieces send a clear message: Labour is the real party of the family. We understand that many families are struggling under this government. We know they want to support and care for one another, and to build a better life, but they need a government that will back their efforts […]

    Read more →
  • Comment PMQs Verdict: Think of those who will have a distinctly un-Merry Christmas, thanks to Cameron

    PMQs Verdict: Think of those who will have a distinctly un-Merry Christmas, thanks to Cameron

    There’s a risk at Christmas time of going through the motions at work in the run up to Christmas. It’s dark and cold outside, and all you really want to be doing is sorting out the Christmas tree, finishing your shopping and eating mince pies. (Obviously that’s not the case at LabourList – and certainly not the reason why this PMQs verdict is arriving three hours after Cameron and Miliband sat down. Ahem…). There was an element of pre-Christmas about […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Too many carers miss out on the support they need

    Too many carers miss out on the support they need

    One in eight adults, 6.5 million people in the UK, are already caring for a family member or close friend who is frail or facing long-term illness or disability. Every day, 6,000 people take on caring responsibilities. Research done by Carers UK suggests that the number of unpaid family carers is predicted to rise to 9 million people in the next 25 years. Surveys have shown that fewer than one in ten people can correctly state the true scale of […]

    Read more →
  • News Tories and UKIP both spent three times as much as Labour in the European elections

    Tories and UKIP both spent three times as much as Labour in the European elections

    Both UKIP and the Conservative Party outspent Labour by almost three times during this year’s European election campaign. It was UKIP’s first victory in a national election, and Labour came in second place with big spenders the Tories falling behind to third. Labour were the only major party not to increase their election spending from the previous Euros in 2009 (when we finished a miserable third) and were even outspent this time around by the Lib Dems, who only won […]

    Read more →
  • Comment When we talk about work and family – we must not forget older women

    When we talk about work and family – we must not forget older women

    Christmas is fast approaching, for most of us it is a time for families, when we come together across the generations to share and spend time together.  But what of our families in the rest of the year?  Stories of isolation of older people and a ‘couldn’t care’ attitude amongst the young make the headlines.  But in my work with Labour’s Commission on Older Women I have heard a different story: of families relying more than ever on each other, […]

    Read more →