New MP Probe Into Blacklist Claims

A committee of MPs is to hold fresh hearings into blacklisting after new allegations that union members are being denied work in the construction industry.

The Scottish Affairs Select Committee, which has been conducting a lengthy inquiry into the issue, is to look into new revelations of a secret register of workers.

The Government has also come under attack for its response to the scandal.

A programme shown on Danish TV last week said international employment agency Atlanco Rimec, which has an office in Northampton, was blacklisting workers who joined a trade union.

Those who complained about pay, or joined a union, were not given further work, it was claimed.

The claim follows the discovery of a blacklist of more than 3,000 mainly construction workers in the UK five years ago.

Some of the companies involved have launched a scheme to pay compensation, although no money has yet been paid out.

The select committee made a series of recommendations in a previous report, including calls for compensation from companies which used the blacklist before they were considered for public contracts, and direct employment in the industry, with less use of agency workers.

Committee chair Ian Davidson (Labour/Co-op, Glasgow South West) said: "We are very disappointed that the Government has rejected our recommendation for direct employment on all publicly-funded construction projects and for transparent recruitment and employment practices - even though they have asked us to take more evidence.

"What we have seen shows clearly that the use of agency workers is a weak spot in eradicating blacklisting and we therefore recommended that direct employment and transparent recruitment practices should be standard for all public-sector contracts in the construction industry.

"This concern has been vindicated with the recent allegations that an international employment agency that operates in the UK has been blacklisting employees, using a secret register to prevent workers who complain about pay or who join a trade union getting further work.

"I will be asking the committee to look at these new revelations with a view to further hearings.

"The committee will also shortly be reviewing the process of negotiations, between the companies already found guilty of blacklisting and representatives of their workforces, to ensure that both sides are giving the need for a fair and commensurate settlement the urgency it deserves.''

Steve Murphy, general secretary of construction union Ucatt, said: "The latest blacklisting allegations demonstrate why direct employment and cutting down the use of agencies is vital to stamping out this practice.

"The Government's response demonstrates that they do not care about the victims of blacklisting or in stopping blacklisting from occurring.''