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Secret files held on construction workers

Published 07/03/2009

The Government last night warned it could bring in new laws to tackle the blacklisting of workers after new evidence revealed that the practice was “rampant”.

Unions and MPs expressed alarm after an investigation by the Information Commissioner showed that major construction firms broke data protection laws by paying for information on their employees.

Deputy information commissioner David Smith said information on around 3,000 workers was held by the Consulting Association in paper files and a card index database.

Around 40 construction companies would send the association lists of people they were considering hiring to work on building sites and would then receive details from their files over the phone, he said.

Notes about individual workers included descriptions such as “ex-shop steward, definite problems”, “Irish ex-Army, bad egg”, while |others related to workers who had raised concerns over health and safety issues on sites, such as asbestos removal.

Mr Smith said the companies — including household names and major players in the industry — must have known that what they were doing was wrong.

Welcoming the action taken, Employment Relations Minister Pat McFadden said: “Personal data should not be covertly collected, stored and sold — legislation is in place for the authorities to take action if this happens.

“The government is committed to monitoring whether anti-union blacklisting is resurfacing as a problem in the UK and we will carefully examine any new evidence brought forward, including that collected by the Information Commissioner.”

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