Connected Research

Union policy research in the 21st century

Information Commission names and shames…

with one comment

The Information Commission has published the names of 14 companies against which it will be taking further action in respect of their misuse of personal data obtained on trade union activists from Ian Kerr, on behalf of The Consulting Association (see here for the direct press release; while it also currently available from the front page of the Commission’s website).

The 14 names include that of NG Bailey – a construction company involved in the telecoms industry and for which Connect members may have worked.

The action being taken is via Enforcement Notices. You can read the Enforcement Notice in relation to NG Bailey here; I suspect they all ready pretty much the same although I note that the notice in respect of NG Bailey doesn’t include a reference to the disclosure of information to a third party without informing the individual affected such as, for example, the one in relation to Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering does (though this may well reflect the particular company structure of Balfour Beatty and the widespread use of The Consulting Association’s services by other companies within the Balfour Beatty group).

The Notice commits the companies to ‘refrain from using, disclosing or otherwise processing’ personal data obtained from Ian Kerr; and, secondly, to ensure that, if they obtain information from third parties in the future, they are completely open with job applicants about the process. Failure to abide by the Enforcement Notice would open up the company to prosecution. David Smith, Deputy Commissioner, said that:

We have used the maximum powers available to us and this enforcement action sends a strong signal that organisations must take the Data Protection Act seriously.

The effectiveness of such Notices clearly lies in the context of the ill publicity they gain for those involved, and the perception that other people are carefully watching the future activity of those concerned; the ‘punishment’ they convey is scarcely worthy of the name. But, the Information Commission can’t do much else within the powers open to it. This particular issue – of what should happen to companies using the services of blacklisting organisations – will clearly need to be picked up in the draft regulations now being consulted on by BIS and to which Connect and Prospect will be responding on a joint basis.

According to The Guardian, which has also obtained further information about how The Consulting Association operated, NG Bailey said it would be ‘”strengthening” its procedures to comply with data protection laws’ – though it’s not exactly trumpeting that on its website.

In the context of the need for watchfulness over the issue, Connect has also written direct to BT, which is linking with NG Bailey in a new contract for the Ministry of Defence, requesting that it ‘Carefully re-consider using the services of a company that has been named as having used the services of the Consulting Association’ and seeking assurances that it ‘Support[s] efforts to stamp out illegal employment practice, that [it] will co-operate fully in sharing all relevant information with the ICO and that BT remains committed to the highest standards of policy and practice in managing its external relationships’.

Working together, we can stamp out the practice.


Written by Calvin

05/08/2009 at 2:30 pm

One Response

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  1. Hi Calvin

    a Blacklist Support Group has been set up to act as a informal network for blacklisted workers from different unions.

    We intend to visit TUC & LP Conference to keep the issue live in the media, lobby for firmer legislation and support any legal cases.

    Hope we can hook up with Connect sometime



    09/08/2009 at 11:03 pm

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