Universities urged to make ban on blacklist firms a policy

UCUAcademics have called on universities in Scotland to boycott construction firms which blacklisted workers involved in trade union activity.

A motion to the annual congress of the UCU Scotland union, which represents lecturers and support workers, said universities should enshrine a ban in their procurement policies on the companies which took part in the practice and then failed to pay workers compensation.

The blacklist was discovered in 2009 after a raid by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on the West Midlands offices of the Consulting Association firm.

The ICO seized a database containing the names of over 3,000 construction workers and environmental activists, used by dozens of companies across the UK.

Workers said they were included on the list often for merely raising health and safety concerns on building sites, or for being union activists, with many believing they had been denied work as a result.

Eurig Scandrett, a UCU member from the Queen Margaret University union, who proposed the motion, said: “Universities are public institutions with public responsibilities and they also contract work to construction companies.

“As trade unionists in the higher education sector we can call on the universities not to employ the construction companies who used this illegal and abhorrent practice.”

The attack on blacklisting came just days after construction companies were accused of an “act of bad faith” and of “misleading” MPs over a compensation scheme for blacklisted workers.

A report by the Scottish Affairs Select Committee said eight firms behind the scheme were more interested in minimising damage to their reputation and finances rather than a genuine attempt to tackle the scandal. The MPs called for a full public inquiry.

The committee said it was difficult to conclude that publicity around the launch of the compensation scheme last year was a “deliberate attempt to mislead”, and that the implication unions were in agreement was “callous and manipulative”. A statutory code of practice was needed to eradicate blacklisting, they said.

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