London 2012 and the Construction Industry blacklist

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One of the messages that the Organisers of London 2012 have been keen to promote is that this competition will be the “Greenest Games ever”. As is now well known this has involved such inspired decisions as the choice of BP as the Games’ official Sustainability Partner” and “Official Carbon Offset Partner”. BP, in this context, clearly stands for Beyond Parody.

Here, I want to concentrate on perhaps the single “greenest” action that any of the London organisers have taken, which has been to organise annual safety, health and environmental awards, which have in turn given prizes to a number of construction companies.

The essential message of the events has been that workers on Olympic sites should take no risks with their own lives. This is an important message in an industry where 50 workers a year are killed on building sites. But is politically low risk, indeed so low risk as to be almost mendacious. It saves the large contractors money; more significantly, it gives the large employers (who by promoting casualised working are the major cause of accidents at work) a false clean bill of health.

In general terms, the companies associated with building the Olympics include some of the worst of the major contractors, not least both Carillion and McAlpine, who were major players in the Construction industry blacklist of trade unionists.

Blacklisting is not a small story; rather it is probably the worst single piece of bad publicity that the construction industry has faced in the past few years.

I haven’t been able to find any details of the most recent awards, but I can see that the winner of the workforce engagement award at the Olympic Development Agency’s 2010 prize-giving was BAM Nuttall. BAM has accepted that it used the blacklist, while giving the mealy-mouthed excuse that this was in order to

obtain confirmation that potential employees did not pose a serious threat to the safety and security of our and / or our client’s operations. Such confirmation was provided by TCA orally as a simple aggregate ‘OK’

What BAM accept, then, is that when a person applied for a job with them, they would the blacklisting company, “The Consulting Association” (TCA), and ask if that potential worker had a TCA file. If no, they were given an Ok; if yes, they would be refused work. Given that one of the classes of persons who were blacklisted was union health and safety representatives, it takes a special kind of corporate ingenuity to reinvent this criminal conduct (for which the director of the TCA received a large fine) as activity to prevent “threats” to “safety”.

BAM’s version of events was either ill-informed or actively dishonest (I will leave it to their press officer’s conscience to determine which); but inadequate as their explanation was, it clearly sufficed for the Organisers of London 2012.

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