Blacklisting – that is the organised and deliberate exclusion of workers from employment on the basis of allegations about their political views and activities, or trade union representation or workplace safety activism – has been reborn in the UK. With the strap line “Telling the Truth about Employees”, a new web based organisation “HR blacklist” is not only offering access to details of potential applicants’ backgrounds, but is offering to pay “HR Agents” a dollar every time one of their alternative “resumes” is viewed by a subscriber.
In the UK the main blacklisting organisation from the end of the First World War onwards was a shadowy organisation on the extreme right of British politics called the Economic League . Throughout its lifetime the League’s blacklisting activities were frequently the subject of articles and criticism from the left, but largely untouched by the mainstream media and by the Labour Party, which might have been expected to take a stand. The dominating view in the media was that blacklisting wasn’t an issue; the numbers involved were small and those that were blacklisted possibly had it coming to them. This changed dramatically in the 1980’s when internal dissent in the League led to the leaking of a remarkable amount of information about the nature and scale of the League’s blacklisting “services” to employers. On prime time independent television, World in Action devoted three specials to the revelations, the BBC ran another expose in its series “Watchdog”. By 1993, following a drubbing at the hands of Parliament’s Employment Select Committee, and in the middle of a defamation claim it seemed likely to lose, the League went to receivership.
When the Labour Party formed a government in 1997 it revised Data Protection legislation against digital AND paper-held databases which saw, finally, regulations that outlawed the use of blacklists as part of the recruitment process. And, so, in the1999 Employment Relations Act government gave itself the opportunity to introduce regulations against blacklisting. However, those regulations were not put in place until 2010, when it emerged that the Economic League’s construction industry blacklist had survived as a trade association –The Consulting Association , run by former League employee Ian Kerr .
In the two years since their introduction, the Employment Relations Act, 1999 (Blacklists) Regulations 2010, have not been invoked. And to be honest it is inconceivable how they could be now, and for two quite different reasons. The first reason is the professional respectability of pre-employment vetting. When trying to put together some observations about the changed employment environment for “Spies at Work” (see below) I looked at a number of websites for HR corporations promoting employment vetting in accordance with British Standard BS7858 .
One large corporation, now with problems entirely of its own making, was GS4. On its website it was frank in its pitch for business: “Specialists in Employment Screening. We are a highly experienced team that offer a personal low-cost service to all businesses. It doesn’t matter whether you have a handful of employees or thousands, we tailor our services and costs to suit you! Without G4S employment screening you could be susceptible to: Fraudulent job applications. Dishonesty and security breaches. Exposure to extremists and protest activity.”
The second reason why it might be difficult to effectively implement the Employment Relations Act 1999 (Blacklists) Regulations 2010 is the breadth, range and accessibility of information that is posted about us on the internet, either by ourselves or our family and friends. This makes the crude technology of a pre-compiled blacklist more or less redundant. This means that anyone, including potential employers, with the inclination to investigate can build up a realistic picture of an individual.
This new organisation, HR Blacklist , seems to overcome some of the shortcomings of the old technology. To put it simply it takes a “wiki” approach to constructing its blacklist, with a small commission paid to the contributing “HR Agent” turning them into chair-based bounty hunters. HR Blacklist makes the uploaded CV available to anyone who is registered, and prepared to pay a fee. This is a business plan that could generate a substantial database of damaging and defamatory information about a substantial number of workers very quickly. And its structure of payments would manage any financial risks carefully. Although it is clearly and explicitly in breach of the UK employment regulations, HR Blacklist currently operates from an IP address (188.8.131.52) in India. However it is possible to search for the names of those whose information is held on the database and it would seem most are based in America or the UK.
[Note from Darker Net. We suspect the India IP could be a proxy using Tor or a VPN. The IP address of HR Blacklist's actual server is listed as being with a Panamanian company and has a proxy email: Fundacion, Email: http://reversewhois.domaintools.com/? email=daeb77de6207aa3177c45d241c2c03f0; 0850-00056, Zona 15, Panama, Tel: +507.65995877. Perhaps by being hosted offshore HR Blacklist hopes this will protect them from any legal action or, say, a DDoS attack.]
The UK transport union RMT is led by Bob Crow and he has said that a number of his members are on the list and has called for it to be shut down: “Action should be taken by the authorities to shut this blacklisting site down”. Even if the UK government was inclined to support Crow’s call, it is unlikely to have much success. As the American Government has discovered with Wikileaks, attempting to close down websites is a fools errand and counter productive. With this new development in blacklisting technology the most successful approach to limiting its impact will come from legal action against those that post the defamatory CV’s, employers that act on them – whether that is in respect of potential and current employees – and against anyone involved in developing or promoting HR Blacklist in the UK whether that is as a party to a breach of Employment Relations Act 1999 (Blacklists) Regulations 2010 or a wider and well organised criminal conspiracy.
While we don’t yet have details of those behind the organisation, no doubt they will eventually emerge. In the meantime in the contents of the HR Blacklist’s news page –“Immigration to the UK: the key Facts” gives us a clue as to where to start looking, and also where HR Blacklist believe left-wing extremism starts.
Mike Hughes is the author of the definitive history of the Economic League “Spies at Work”. It has recently been updated and reissued as a paperback ISBN
9781291044911 and an e-book; more information at http://spiesatwork.org.uk
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