Construction Blacklisting

Construction workers create the very structures which enable society as we know it to function.  Whether you’re walking your children across a footbridge to school, driving through a tunnel to work, or visiting a relative in hospital; your journey has been made possible through the hard work of a large number of dedicated construction trades.  These are men and women who are out in all weathers, often for long hours overcoming challenges in the built environment.  We take it for granted that these structures will safely support our way of life.
It has been my experience as Deputy Chair of the Murphy Group of construction companies, that safety and quality are inextricably linked.  Working safely means assessing the risks and planning the method to be used to carry out the job in hand.  Preparing in this way involves taking the time to think through the task in detail before starting.  The aim is to anticipate and reduce or remove risk.  However this planning process also allows space for ordering the tasks in a way that facilitates the best finish in terms of quality.  So, a safer worker creates better quality infrastructure which is in turn safer for the men, women and children who ultimately come to use it. 
With this in mind, one might assume that safe working practices would be universally encouraged and rewarded within the construction industry.  I am pleased to say that has largely been my experience and I have benefitted from the care of colleagues who have genuinely prioritised the safety of the team.  This has been important not just in my work as a civil engineer, but earlier, as a teenager working as a banksman; slinging loads and signalling cranes on site.
However, following the news of blacklisting within our industry has been deeply disturbing.  The Information Commissioners Office raid uncovered files on thousands of construction workers who had been placed on a blacklist, illegally preventing them from gaining employment.  Many of these workers were added to the list for raising health and safety concerns.  So, the very people who attempted to improve the workplace, far from being rewarded; have been punished for their efforts.
The 20th November national day of action on blacklisting saw hundreds of events nationwide & those personally affected spoke powerfully at meetings held in Parliament.  It was heartbreaking to hear first-hand the way in which this has impacted the lives of the men on the blacklist & their families.  As an immigrant my Father was turned away from accommodation in London by the sign “No Dogs, No Blacks, No Irish”.  He was excluded from workplaces in this city with notices that “No Irish Need Apply”.  Barring people from work on the grounds of race was wrong then, just as it is wrong now for the brave workers who have raised their voices to make building sites safer for everyone.
The call on the 20th November was for companies involved in this practice to ‘own up, clean up and pay up’.  The Trades Union Congress and Labour’s Ed Miliband have called for a public inquiry into blacklisting.  This campaign deserves our full support.  It is not only a construction industry issue:  It affects every one of us, every day as we turn the handle of every door.
More information can be found at:

Blacklisting Resources

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