Welsh government bans blacklisting firms from public sector contracts

Wales is set to become the first part of the UK to attempt to bring to an end the practice of blacklisting.

Wales is set to become the first part of the UK to attempt to bring to an end the practice of blacklisting, under which individuals can find themselves denied employment opportunities because of their trade union membership or their involvement in trade union activity.

In February it emerged that 3,213 people were on a blacklist covering the construction sector, of which the BBC discovered 111 were Welsh.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales’ ‘Good Morning Wales’ programme, GMB national officer Justin Bowden has said that for over ten years 40 of the largest construction companies in the UK had organised a secret blacklist that contained thousands of names of individuals who worked in and around the industry. He added:

“They shared those names and exchanged information about them and the net result of that was that 3,213 people were denied work.

“In some cases they might get work for a short period of time, in other cases they perhaps (would) be offered a job and then told a couple of days later that they didn’t get one.

“The most common reason that people would be blacklisted would be for raising health and safety concerns.”

Ministers in Cardiff Bay have now taken the step of issuing a formal procurement advice note to all Welsh public bodies to outline the steps to take to help eradicate blacklisting.

The guidance makes clear those circumstances where Welsh public sector bodies can exclude blacklisters from bidding for a public contract.

Expressing the government’s determination to tackle the issue, Welsh finance minister Jane Hutt explained:

“The use of blacklists is wholly unacceptable and I fully sympathise with the individuals and their families who have suffered a terrible injustice as a consequence of contractors engaging in this practice.

“Procurement is an important part of the overall policy toolkit of the Welsh government. Under no circumstances is it acceptable for any business in receipt of public procurement expenditure to use blacklists.

“I am determined to take action in Wales. I trust that other governments in the UK will take similar action if they have not already done so.”

Writing for BBC News Online, its Wales economic correspondent Sarah Dickins has commented on the blacklist, which she has seen:

“In it there are comments like: ‘Bit of a Trot’ (Trotskyite), a rabble rousers, asks questions about health and safety’.”

Declaring the Welsh government to be ahead of the game, she added:

“What the Welsh government is proposing is pretty radical. They’re ahead of the other administrations in the UK.

“What it is doing under Jane Hutt is saying that any company known to have a secret blacklist of workers cannot bid for any of the £4.2bn of public sector money spent in Wales, particularly on big projects.”

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