May 24 2013
According to the Oxford Dictionary a blacklist is ‘…a list of people or groups regarded as unacceptable or untrustworthy and often marked down for punishment or exclusion.’ And on Wikipedia: ‘…a blacklist (or black list) is a list or register of entities who, for one reason or another, are being denied a particular privilege, service, mobility, access or recognition.’ As a verb to blacklist can mean to deny someone work in a particular field, or to ostracize from a certain social circle – as a concept it runs totally counter to the ethos of the European Union (EU).
Thanks to the Treaty of Rome (1957) being members of the European Union (EU) allows, nay gives us the right, to access the four freedoms of movement: of goods, capital, services and workers and citizens. In essence we, as EU citizens and workers, can live, travel and work anywhere in the European Union’s 27 Member States. As far as the EU Treaties are concerned we are all equal in these rights.
Blacklisting is total anathema to civilised society – or the principles on which the EU was founded on. That is why I am very pleased that the fight to totally outlaw this practice has been taken up in Brussels and Strasbourg.
According to recently released figures from the General Municipal and Boilermakers Union (GMB), the union for construction workers, 528 workers in Scotland are now known to have been blackilsted: and MEP’s and the GMB Union now know exactly where in Scotland this blacklisting has taken place.
People have been deprived of an honest living through these illegal tactics which have blighted their families’ lives - and not a single company has yet been punished nor have any of them paid compensation!
The blacklist first came to light when, in 2009, the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) seized a Consulting Association database of 3,213 construction workers which was used by 44 companies to vet new recruits and keep out of employment trade union and health and safety activists. The ICO never contacted anyone on the list to let them know they were blacklisted.
This is against natural justice, if not an infringement of human rights. I know this from my work on the Human Rights sub-Committeee in Brussels. The right to work is one of our basic human rights. I dedicated myself to supporting measures at the European level to try and outlaw this petty and mean employment practice.
Last year I and my colleagues in Brussels gave a cautious welcome to a confirmation from the European Commission that, as part of its upcoming review of health & safety legislation, it would ensure that EU law is being followed and that workers’ health and safety reps are not being put at a disadvantage by employers.
Labour MEPs demanded a clearer commitment on the issue of blacklisting of workers and called for a positive statement that the European Commission that would specifically address the issue of blacklisting.
Unfortunately it has come to light at the European level that this practice, where workers are refused employment by employers across a whole sector of industry, still exists in Scotland, the United Kingdom and the European Union. However, if we can get legislation enforced at the EU level it will apply at all other levels and throughout the 27 Member States – not a mean achievement!
The EU Commissioner for Employment, László Andor, admitted the Commission is aware that some employers continue to blacklist workers. But thanks to our pressure – by 2015 – the European Commission must carry out a review of the implementation of EU health and safety legislation across Member States. The Commission has been asked to confirm that this review will look at blacklisting of workers’ health and safety reps – a practice which is illegal under EU law. The Commissioner confirmed that if the review does find that blacklisting remains a problem, then it will ensure that national governments apply ‘dissuasive, effective and proportionate penalties’ to infringers.
There remains considerable concern that more work remains to be done to gain a cast iron commitment from the European Commission that they will do all in their power to outlaw entirely – and throughout the EU – the blacklisting of workers whose only crime has been to defend the safety of their colleagues in the workplace.