Information watchdog asked to examine evidence after unanimous call made to Vince Cable by select committee
The information watchdog will examine allegations that blacklisting is taking place on Crossrail after a committee of MPs overseeing an inquiry into the practice called on business secretary Vince Cable to launch an investigation.
Building first broke the story that the blacklisting scandal was threatening to entangle the £15bn project – Europe’s largest infrastructure project - last November by revealing that Crossrail’s industrial relations manager, Ron Barron, was an established blacklister in a former role.
Earlier this month, the Scottish Affairs committee – which has been investigating blacklisting for more than a year – heard from the union Unite, which put forward evidence of what it said pointed to blacklisting at Crossrail including the project’s employment of several other HR managers who previously worked with blacklisting firm the Consulting Association up until its closure in 2009.
In a letter sent on Friday to business secretary Vince Cable, committee chairman Ian Davidson called on his department to investigate “what we believe to be clear proof that blacklisting for trade union and health and safety activities has been going on within the contract for the Crossrail project run by BFK (BAM, Ferrovial and Kier)”.
A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills confirmed it had referred this to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the organisation which first uncovered construction industry blacklisting by the Consulting Association (TCA) in 2009, but has since come under heavy criticism from the committee itself for seizing only around 5% of the TCA’s files and for notifying only about 400 of the 3,200 individuals named in its construction blacklist database.
In his letter to Cable, Davidson wrote: “During the Parliamentary debate on this subject on the 23rd January you indicated that you would be willing to look at any evidence that indicated [blacklisting] was still continuing.
“The committee has now received written evidence and held a formal committee hearing on the 3rd July with Gail Cartmail of Unite the Union, who has given us what we believe to be clear proof that blacklisting for trade union and health and safety activities has been going on within the contract for the Crossrail project run by BFK (BAM, Ferrovial and Kier).
“The committee is unanimous in believing that this evidence should be passed to yourselves to be pursued further even while other parts of our enquiry are continuing.”
A spokesperson for Crossrail, which also speaks for the BFK consortium, said:“Blacklisting is very clearly an unacceptable and illegal practice. Since September 2012, the Unite union, has made a series of unsubstantiated allegations against Crossrail Limited as part of an on going leverage campaign. Crossrail has made repeated requests to be provided with any evidence of the claims made against it by Unite but nothing has been forthcoming.”
Construction union Ucatt called Cable’s decision to refer the committee’s request to the ICO “derisory”.
Ucatt general secretary Steve Murphy said: “The government’s response to evidence of blacklisting on Crossrail is derisory.
“The Information Commissioners Office is under-resourced and does not have the resources, the ability or the powers to properly investigate blacklisting on Crossrail.”
Murphy added: “Yet again this government is trying to kick blacklisting into the long grass. Asking the ICO to investigate either demonstrates that the government doesn’t understand blacklisting, they don’t want to deal with the issue or they don’t care.”