Blacklists to be blacklisted?

15 05 2009

I’ve written before about the National Staff Dismissal Register (NSDR) in the Retail Sector and the blacklist published by The Consulting Association (TCA) in the construction industry.  The former is a joint venture between Action Against Business Crime (a consortium formed between leading retailers and the Home Office), the latter a database compiled by a private company that then sold details to about 40 leading construction companies.  News comes this week that the government is planning to introduce regulations to proscribe blacklists used by companies to identify Trade Union members and thus not employ them.  The TCA blacklist appears to have identified trade union members as trouble – e.g “ex shop steward definite problems” and similar.  The government thinks, rightly, that potential employees should not be discriminated against because of their Trade Union membership.

Back in January the House of Lords ruled that care workers accused (note accused, not convicted) of harming children or vulnerable adults and placed as a result on a provisional blacklist could sue for infringement of their rights under the Human Rights Act.  It was estimated by the Royal College of Nursing that there were 5,500 names on the list.  The particular harm with that blacklist was that the people on it were undergoing investigation and could not work in the months it took for the investigatory and appeals process to be completed. Compensation claims will undoubtedly result.

All seems to have gone very quiet on the NSDR, which was a system retailers put in place to notify other members of staff dismissed for theft, fraud, forgery and criminal damage.  Again, no formal criminal investigation or conviction is required, leaving open the possibility that a malicious employer could prevent an employee getting back into work just by placing an entry in the register.   Safeguards are said to exist and all members have to agree to a strict code of practice, but I am struggling to see any fundamental difference between the NSDR and the TCA type blacklist – other than in the latter case the government might be trying to appease its friends in the Trade Union movement.  On the other hand the government is prepared to promote a scheme in the retail sector which surely infringes Data Protection legislation.  Is this yet another example of the government’s rather oppressive attitude towards civil liberties?




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