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We need to talk about blacklisting, says CIPD chief

7 June 2013

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development is urging construction companies and industry institutions to participate in a cathartic open debate about the practices that led to the ongoing blacklisting scandal.

The intervention by CIPD chief executive Peter Cheese comes as the first wave of 70 civil claims for compensation brought by the GMB union were lodged with the High Court this week.

And the issue is also to come under the national spotlight on Monday 10 June, when BBC Panorama is due to examine “Blacklist Britain”.

The CIPD has already written to the HR directors of some of the major contractors that used the services of The Consulting Association, the secretive blacklisting organisation shut down by the Information Commissioner's Office in 2009.

It is now in the process of contacting a number of industry organisations, including the UKCG, the CBI Construction Council and the CIOB, to invite them to participate in a round-table debate and other initiatives designed to bring the issues into the open.

A CIPD spokesman said: “We’re starting to have a conversation with the construction industry, to look back at the issues around blacklisting. But it’s not just to talk about history – it’s about looking at the future.

“HR departments exist to make sure you’ve got the right person in the right job. Blacklisting is an extreme example of what can go wrong, but there are questions around the way you recruit and vet employees, particularly with the rise of social media. So what is good practice, what is unacceptable, and what are the grey areas in the middle?”

"We're starting to have a conversation with the construction industry, to look back at the issues around blacklisting. But it's not just to talk about history – it’s about looking at the future."

CIPD spokesman

Meanwhile, the CIPD has confirmed that it is conducting a “small number of investigations” into CIPD members who held HR positions at the construction companies that checked names against the database maintained by the TCA.

An investigation panel is looking into possible breaches of the CIPD Code of Conduct, which could possibly result in disciplinary action.

Stephen Ratcliffe, director of the UKCG, confirmed that he had had an approach from the CIPD and  “will certainly be talking to them”.

He also emailed a statement prepared by UKCG for Panorama, which reads: “UKCG members do not condone blacklisting they respect the law and they value the strong relationship that has been built up with the unions over the past decade.

“The practices highlighted in your programme are historic. The organisation involved – The Consulting Association – has been closed down since 2009 and members of UKCG have policies in place to ensure that blacklisting does not happen and would certainly not support it.

“UKCG members would not discriminate against any employee for raising genuine safety concerns. Indeed, our approach is the exact opposite and to encourage proactive worker engagement.

“The industry has also invested heavily over the past decade to improve its health and safety performance.  HSE statistics show that the number of all reported accidents in construction has fallen by over 40% in the past decade with much of that improvement driven by UKCG members.”

Main image: Hazards Magazine www.hazards.org/blacklistblog/2011/04/13/olympic-site-blockaded-in-blacklist-protest/

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