Tag Archives: workers’ rights

Blacklisting: the scandal continues

1 Feb
by Sarah Glenister

It is shameful that so little has been done to acknowledge the scandal of blacklisting and scandalous that even less has been done to compensate those who have suffered from this vile practice. Last week the Institute of Employment Rights released a comprehensive resource document on blacklisting.

Last week saw an opposition debate in Parliament on blacklisting in the Ruined Livesconstruction industry which called for an immediate investigation into the extent of the practice and an assurance “that appropriate and effective sanctions are in place to tackle and prevent blacklisting”.

During the debate, many passionate speeches were heard from Labour MPs, some of whom have themselves been the victims of blacklisting, and many of whom know of constituents who have had their livelihoods snatched away from them by the practice.

With evidence coming to light through the Scottish Affairs Committee’s Inquiry that the police and the Security Service colluded with the activities of blacklisters in the construction industry, and that blacklisting practices have been rife in public works, including the construction of the Olympic Park, it was also argued that a Leveson-style inquiry must go ahead. Blacklisting has been given important exposure by the Scottish Parliament and we must congratulate MSPs for their determination in forcing this issue up the political agenda.

But the practice of blacklisting is not restricted to the UK alone. The construction companies identified as participating in the blacklisting operation include household names based and operating across Europe including: Skanska (Sweden), Bam (Netherlands), Vinci (France), Laing O’Rourke (Ireland), Sir Robert McAlpine, Balfour Beatty, Kier, Costain, Carillion (UK) to name but a few. It is important therefore that European wide action is taken in response.

The Blacklist Support Group and Professor Keith Ewing of the Institute of Employment Rights fought hard to bring blacklisting to the attention of the EU Commissioner in 2011 and there is now much work taking place at the European level with Stephen Hughes MEP and Glenis Willmott MEP taking up the issue in the European Parliament.

In the light of recent evidence and based on the information gathered in Scotland, EU and now at Westminster, we believe the current blacklisting Regulations now need to be strengthened in the following ways:

  1. There should be a positive right not to be blacklisted and workers who find themselves on a blacklist should have an automatic right to compensation without the burden of proof being placed upon them.
  2. A retroactive compensation scheme should be established to compensate blacklisted workers.
  3. Protection against blacklisting should be extended to include “trade union related activities”.
  4. Blacklisting should be a criminal offence and companies who make use of blacklists should be open to criminal prosecution.
  5. The government’s recently announced Advisory Council for the Construction Industry should be a tripartite body.

Last week the Institute of Employment Rights released a comprehensive resource on blacklisting which looks at the historical practice, Government responses, the legal context, evidence from various investigations and case studies. This resource is free and we encourage you to share it widely.

This post was originally published by Class.

Worldwide violations of trade union rights worsen in 2011

6 Jun
March for labour rights on May Day

Courtesy of London May Day website

by Amy Jackson

The situation faced by trade unionists across the world grew steadily worse in 2011, according to the annual survey of trade union rights violations published today (Wednesday) by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

This year’s survey, examining 143 countries, found that 76 trade unionists were murdered in 2011, with thousands more dismissed and arrested. The Americas is still the most deadly region for trade unionists, with Colombia remaining the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists. Of the 76 people murdered for their trade union activities, not counting the workers killed during the Arab Spring, 29 lost their lives in Colombia. Trade unionists in Guatemala also suffered 10 assassinations, committed with impunity.

The worldwide trends highlighted in the survey include the non respect of labour legislation by governments, the lack of funding for labour inspection and workers’ protection, the lack of rights and abuse faced by migrant workers throughout the world, particularly in the Gulf States, and the exploitation of the largely female workforce in the export processing zones around the globe. Among the most vulnerable are the 100 million domestic workers.

2011 was the year of the Arab Spring and the revolutions surrounding this in North Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf States. The repression of trade union rights has been particularly harsh in these regions. Trade union organisations played a leading role in the revolutions, notably in Tunisia, Egypt and Bahrain, and were targeted during the uprisings. Hundreds of activists were killed in the clashes and thousands were arrested.

However the road to democracy is getting smoother, the ITUC says, as seen from the massive turnout for the Egyptian elections in November and the continued protests in Syria and Bahrain. The creation of an independent trade union movement is well underway, although there is still no freedom of association in some nations, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Eritrea or Sudan.

General Secretary of the ITUC Sharan Burrow said: “The situation of hundreds of thousands of workers is very disturbing. Most of them do not enjoy the fundamental rights of collective bargaining and freedom of association, and are in precarious employment.

“Their lives are thrown into disarray because they have to work long hours in dangerous and unhealthy conditions, in return for salaries so low they cannot meet their own needs or those of their families. That partly explains the worldwide recession.”

The ITUC survey reveals how strikes are fiercely repressed in many countries, by means of mass dismissals, arrests and detention, including in Georgia, Kenya, South Africa and Botswana, where 2800 workers were dismissed after a public sector strike.

Trade union rights do not just come under attack in the developing world. As the UK government continues to preach austerity, Conservative politicians and party staff are repeatedly looking for opportunities to restrict trade union rights in the UK – which already has the strictest anti-trade union laws in Europe. Whether it be ‘fire at will’ policies, worsening health and safety or insisting on a 50% turnout in strike ballots, the Coalition will not be bucking the global trend any time soon. With many EU leaders taking a similar approach towards employment rights, Left Out predicts it will be a similar picture for the 2012 survey next year.

For more information, go direct to the ITUC survey.

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