Despite rhetoric that the new EU agency worker regulations will ‘stifle business’ and ‘cost jobs’, the extent to which the British government will go to use agency work to attack hard-won legal rights and undermine working conditions is becoming increasingly clear.
A case-in-point is the recent decision by the Central London Employment Tribunal that Dave Smith, a union activist and blacklisted construction engineer, is not entitled to legal protection against blacklisting because he was employed through an agency. This is despite Carillion, the firm who ultimately employed Smith, admitting in a signed statement that their managers had supplied the blacklist with information about Mr. Smith.
The blacklist is maintained by the Consulting Association and contained Mr. Smith’s photograph, address, national insurance number, work history, car registration, information about his family, and pages of documentation detailing his union activity, including his raising concerns about asbestos on building sites. Evidence from Mr. Smith’s file also shows that company spies had been attending union meetings and gathering information on Smith’s activities outside work.
The blacklist, which has long been known about and has even been the subject of parliamentary discussion, was shared by 44 of the UK’s largest construction firms before being exposed and shut down. Companies paid a fee to the Association each time they checked up on a prospective or current employee.
Mr Smith, for his part, states that he “will be taking our case to the European Court of Human Rights.” However, this is a lengthy process and justice is no more guaranteed there than in the Central London Employment Tribunal.
Regular updates on the case can be found the website of the Blacklist Support Group: