What?

The list is said to contain the details of Midlands construction workers who have been involved in trade union disputes and employment tribunals since the 1990s.

It was reportedly found by officials from the Information Commissioner\’s Office in a raid on the Worcestershire offices of a private consultant last month.

At least 40 contractors – including Sir Robert McAlpine, Balfour Beatty, Costain and Laing O\’Rourke – are alleged to have paid Ian Kerr, who is believed to be a former detective, to vet potential recruits to ensure they had no record of industrial activism.

He will face charges under the Data Protection Act and Richard Thomas, the information commissioner, will today outline proposed legal action against the employers.

I\’m sorry? It\’s illegal to keep a list of people now?

Don\’t we think that we\’ve handed a little bit too much power to this Information Commissioner?

What\’s truly weird is that if the same information were to be held on paper it would be entirely legal.

 

13 comments on “What?

  1. It’s not illegal per se, it’s illegal to do it without registering the database with the information commissioner – and has been since the introduction of the original data protection legislation.

    As to your comment about it being OK if only kept on paper, agreed absolutely. I remember when the original legislation became law there was a flurry of databases being dumped to paper by some of the “less reputable” credit agencies.

  2. I believe it was on paper. A few years back non-computer databases were brought into the regime.

    The DPA is a necessary framework for protecting us all – it limits the data stored to that which is necessary and gives rights of remedy when the information is wrong.

    In your view how do you prevent the injustice of false accusations persisting and propagating? Libel laws?

  3. You may not particularly like trade unions Tim (and if I were an employer I’m not sure I should either), but I reckon freedom of association is more important, particularly given the limitations on what trade unions can do.

    The issue here is that this list was apparently being used to vet job applicants. As Kay Tie says, if the person was unable to challenge the accusations, then that’s not good at all.

    i don’t suppose that any of the people listed are the fluffiest little darlings, but if the rule of law is to protect Fred Goodwin, it should also protect this rabble.

  4. Yes, this seems to have been a systematic method of excluding people from employment, by some of the most important employers, without any right to knowledge of accusations made.

    I don’t see it would be worse if it were the state doing it, in which case we’d all be up in arms.

  5. “I don’t see it would be worse if it were the state doing it”: but it would be Peter. The state has various monopolies, including a monopoly of legal coercion, which means, in my view, it would be far worse if the state were doing it. You can always set up your own building firm: a bobby sacked for being in the BNP can’t set up his own police force.

  6. FWIW, KayTie is correct; it was a paper-based system. It was a good old-fashioned card index.

    It didn’t just keep employment-related data, such as whether a particular employee was a pro-union-agitator and such like. It also kept a record of such (seemingly) irrelevant things as extra-marital affairs.

    That, at least, is what the/an Officially Official Person said when interviewed on the Today programme this morning.

  7. Cleanthes,

    “You may not particularly like trade unions Tim (and if I were an employer I’m not sure I should either), but I reckon freedom of association is more important, particularly given the limitations on what trade unions can do.”

    Actually, about the only people who aren’t afforded freedom of association are employers.

  8. Tim A,

    touche.

    And given Tim W’s views on tax incidence, it could be argued that Trade Union raising of wages is in essence a conspiracy against the public if we are getting all Smithian about it…

  9. And if the government kept the information, not only would that be legal, but you wouldn’t be allowed to know that they were keeping it.

    The Information Commissioner doesn’t have too much power, he just has the wrong powers.

  10. Tim Almond,

    Here are examples of employers asociating freely with each other – the CBI, the Chambers of Commerce, and the SMMT. I challenge you to dispute that, and to admit that your previous comment was rubbish.

  11. Well Martin, freedom of association means a lot more than getting together for a whisky.

    If the employers associated and agreed to anything related to business, from fuck all to fuck nothing, they’d all be gaoled for some conspiratorical crime or other, now, wouldn’t they?

    And rightly so, all for the good of the peepul and pore lil’ childrens, not to mention the minorities and empowered wymyn.

  12. “If the employers associated and agreed to anything related to business, from fuck all to fuck nothing, they’d all be gaoled for some conspiratorical crime or other, now, wouldn’t they?

    And rightly so, all for the good of the peepul and pore lil’ childrens, not to mention the minorities and empowered wymyn.”

    And Thank God for it.

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