Industrial Relations (Blacklists) Bill 2015: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to make it unlawful to compile, use, sell or supply blacklists containing details of people who are, or have been, trade union members or who are taking part, or have taken part, in trade union activities or an industrial action where such blacklists may be used by employers to discriminate in relation to recruitment or the treatment of existing workers and provide for sanctions where such unlawful actions as detailed occur.

Is mian liom an Bille Caidrimh Thionscail (Dúliostaí), 2015 a chur faoi bhráid na Dála. Timpeall na cruinne, tá comhlachtaí ag déanamh taighde ar bhallraíocht cheardchumainn, ag cruthú dúliostaí agus ag díol nó ag scaipeadh na liostaí sin le comhlachtaí áirithe. Úsáideann na custaiméirí sin an t-eolas chun bac a chur ar oibrithe atá mar bhaill de cheardchumainn bheith ag obair leo. Cruthaíonn an bac seo bochtanas agus cruatan i measc ceardchumannaigh.

The Bill seeks to make it unlawful to compile, use, sell or supply blacklists containing details of people who are or have been trade union members or who are taking part or have taken part in trade union activities or an industrial action where such blacklists may be used by employers to discriminate in recruitment or the treatment of existing workers and provide for sanctions where such unlawful actions as detailed occur. It seeks to protect workers and union organisers who are denied employment simply because of their lawful trade union activities. Some politicians and businesses deny that there is such a practice of blacklisting but throughout the world companies collect information on individuals because they are involved in union activity and prevent them from progressing in their employment or gaining employment elsewhere. We know following the Consulting Association scandal in Britain that this practice is prevalent and well organised and has a devastating effect on workers and their families.

For decades, trade union members and organisers have raised the issue of blacklisting and the response of decision-makers has been, "Show me the evidence," but the problem is that blacklisting, by its very nature, is insidious, covert and extremely difficult to expose. An action was taken by the British Information Commissioner in 2009 which exposed blacklisting on a massive scale in the construction and services sectors. It identified 43 senior staff in transnational companies based in Britain involved in this practice. The commissioner's staff discovered extensive files listing 3,000 trade union members and their activities when they raided the Consulting Association's modest premises. When they gave evidence to the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, they confirmed that they had only managed to secure approximately 10% of the files held by the company, which showed that the scale of operations was far in excess of what had been believed to be the case. Furthermore, ICTU's executive council biennial delegate conference report last July noted that a large number of affiliate members were fearful of blacklisting in this country. ICTU and trade unionists generally have repeatedly raised the issue of blacklisting in the context of both the public and private sectors.

The outworking of blacklisting is devastating for workers and their families. The practice entails skilled workers being unable to secure regular work for prolonged periods because of their trade union activity. Some workers have been blacklisted because they demanded the provision of toilets on the sites on which they were working. Private companies collect details of workers and spread the information to other companies in order that they can make decisions not to employ them. I raised this issue with the Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation with responsibility for small business and employment and the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and tabled many amendments to Bills to address it in legislation, but they have so far refused. There are anti-blacklisting regulations in England, Scotland, Wales and the North. Scotland and Wales have introduced procedural rules to enable public sector bodies to exclude blacklisters from bidding for public contracts. Refusing to legislate for this practice means that regular trade union workers will not be able to go about their lawful business. It is important that the Minister and the Government take a proactive and positive attitude towards the Bill. I, therefore, ask the Government to constructively consider it and allow it to proceed to Second Stage as soon as possible.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.