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Mandy promises end to illegal staff blacklists

You can't get me if I'm part of the union

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Lord Mandelson has opened a consultation on banning the use of union blacklists by employers.

The listening period starts today and runs till 18 August - shorter than usual because Mandy wants to introduce legislation in the autumn. The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills also said the shorter period was justified because a fuller consultation was carried out in 2003.

The regulations would prohibit compiling, disseminating or using blacklists of staff with union affiliations. They would make it unlawful to refuse employment or dismiss staff as a result of such a list. It would also be illegal for a recruitment firm to refuse to put you on the books as a result of such a list. Individuals and unions will be able to sue for compensation if such a list is used or distributed.

The ICO found evidence of union blacklists going back 30 years when it investigated Ian Kerr's The Consulting Association. TCA had itself been trading for 15 years.

It charged building firms and recruiters £3,000 a year plus £2.20 for every record checked. The company, which has now ceased trading, held records on thousands of building workers.

Some records referred to poor work practices, failure to follow health and safety rules and even violence against colleagues, but the vast majority referred to union activity. The ICO said 75 per cent of the records held were about union activity or support.

Worried builders can contact the ICO to see if they're named in the records.

The government accepted that its proposals could be avoided by simply running a website from abroad, but said British users of such a service could still be punished. Reporters are exempted from the regulations, as long as they don't name anyone. A report in The Guardian sparked the original ICO investigation.

The ICO investigation of Droitwich-based The Consulting Association was its first use of an Enforcement Notice to shut the firm down. TCA held a list of 3,213 building workers and was used by 40 major clients. The ICO said Kerr is due to be sentenced next week.

BIS's summary and links to the consultation are here. ®

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