In 2009 an illegal blacklist of over 3,200 names was discovered. It was drawn up by a secretive organisation called the Consulting Association. Many of those on the list claim they were denied work in the construction industry. Many were involved with union activities, promoting health and safety in the workplace or were whistleblowers.
“ I was elected as a safety rep for the building union UCATT. From that day on, major construction companies started taking a keen interest in my activities – unfortunately for all the wrong reasons. In the next three years I was repeatedly refused work or dismissed from building sites and found myself virtually unemployable, even though this was the middle of the building boom and the industry was crying out for skilled workers."
Dave Smith, blacklisted (New Internationalist Publications, 2014)
Blacklisting: ‘A list of persons or organisations under suspicion, or considered untrustworthy, disloyal, etc., especially one compiled by a government or an organisation.’ (Collins Dictionary)
But blacklisting is much more than the existence of a formal list. It affects:
Landmark class actions
Discovery of the Consulting Association, a secretive organisation that held an illegal blacklist of individuals considered to pose a risk to employers within the construction industry. The Information Commissioner’s Office discovers the Consulting Association and issues enforcement notices against 14 companies.
The need for legal reform
In other areas of law like discrimination, job applicants are considered workers and are protected by the law.
The Whistleblowing Commission identified the problem exists across all sectors and recommended PIDA should be amended.
In 2018 the Government finally enact legal protection for job applicants in the NHS which in 2014 was identified by the Freedom to Speak Up inquiry into whistleblowing as a key reform. The Government continue to refuse to extend this protection to other sectors.
Protect says: Whistleblowing protection should not be fragmented. Protection from blacklisting should be available across all industries and sectors.
“I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Public Concern at Work for the advice and support they have provided – never in my wildest dreams did I believe that the regulator would blacklist me. It was my perception that the regulated were the cheats and I didn’t imagine that I would end up in this situation. For the FCA subsequently to say that logging information that poses a risk of adverse publicity in relation to any of the FSA/FCA’s functions seems both sensible and appropriate is beyond comprehension and I am determined to help PCaW to secure pre-employment protection for whistleblowers so that no-one else has to fight in the way that I have.”