My own blacklist

It’s going beyond boring to keep plugging this “1984 in the 21st century” stuff, so I’ve been willfully blanking lots of it, but this story is too chilling to ignore.

Just think of every shitty boss you’ve ever worked for. Every dishonest co-worker. Every work dispute you’ve ever had. Every manager who’s made you take the rap for their own corruption or stupidity.

Now, just imagine that the aforementioned shitty bosses could get a lifelong revenge on you at no inconvenience or risk to themselves.

The BBC story says:

Workers accused of theft or damage could soon find themselves blacklisted on a register to be shared among employers. It will be good for profits but campaigners say innocent people could find it impossible to get another job.To critics it sounds like a scenario from some Orwellian nightmare.
An online database of workers accused of theft and dishonesty, regardless of whether they have been convicted of any crime, which bosses can access when vetting potential employees.
But this is no dystopian fantasy. Later this month, the National Staff Dismissal Register (NSDR) is expected to go live.

Note that you don’t get on this database by being convicted of a crime. That would see you on the Criminal Records Bureau computer, which – for all its shortcomings – requires there to have been a prosecution before you find yourself unable to work ever again.

You can get on this database just because someone suspects you of doing something untoward in their employment. Or, obviously, just hates you for any number of reasons.

The Trades Union Congress spokesperson said:

Individuals would be treated as criminals, even though the police have never been contacted

Precisely, thus overturning centuries of law based on the “innocent till proven guilty” premise.

For once, the comments on this story on the BBC website aren’t dominated by the “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear” battalion. Most commenters were understandably horrified and made some cogent arguments against it.

I’m still going to hammer a few of the arguments home.

  • A dispute with an employer can now permanently ruin your entire working life, even if you are completely in the right.
  • In many industries – bar and shop work – unjustified accusations of theft are pretty commonplace. Things get stolen or takings are down and a paranoid boss tends to blame anyone handy.
  • People who are stealing at work can be very good at casting the burden of doubt on other workers, especially if they are new or temporary. (A fortnight’s temporary work as a naive student could leave you so unemployable that you might as well not finish that course.)
  • If you are guilty, you might as well not bother going straight in future jobs because you won’t get any.
  • The private information to be held on these databases must contravene the Data UnProtection Act as it’s obviously not being used for the purposes it is collected for. (For instance, your NI number is supposed to exist to allow your contributions to be credited to you. )
  • The BBC article refers to some remedies under the law. They are too feeble to even merit a mention. And in case, they are purely personal. You yourself have to find out if you’re on the database. You have to ask for your record. You then have to require that errors of fact be corrected.
  • If you have anything against you – legitimate or not – as a UK citizen, you are at a big disadvantage in working in the UK, compared to other EC nationals. You need checkable references, legitimate qualifications and, increasingly, CRB checks. I suggest that you move to another EC country forthwith, so you can make up a few past jobs and some impressive trade qualifications, which no one will be able to question. Imagine you are a builder who has got caught taking home some bathroom fittings (pretty much seen as one of the perks of the job until recently.) That’s it. You’re sacked. You’re also finished up as a worker in the UK. Your job will go to someone with a completely spotless UK record – which probably means someone fresh from Eastern Europe. I can’t believe that free movement of labour in the EU was meant to allow countries – like the present-day UK – to willfully marginalise their own populations.

On a social – but also very selfish level – who wants to live in a world where one mistake – or one falsely attributed mistake – dooms people to a life in which legitimate earnings are just a pipe-dream? That is the way to turn the country into a crime-ridden wasteland. As the UK goes under ever more extreme lock down, life gets ever more desperate for the people outside of Daily-Mail world.

Boycotts are generally feeble tools for achieving anything. All the same, as far as I can see, the only possible recourse against this sort of thing – in the absence of any organised public concern – is to just refuse to buy any goods or services from the offending companies.

So I’m starting my own blacklist.

The BBC mentions Harrods, Selfridges and Reed Managed Services. They’ll do for a start, although that’s too easy. Never having used the services of any of these companies, it won’t make much of a dint in their balance sheets if I decide to boycott them. All the same great oaks, small acorns etc.

When I find out the names of more participants, I’ll post them here.

11 thoughts on “My own blacklist

  1. This was so shocking I had to check the date to make sure it wasn’t an April Fool. I cant get my head around the idea that something like this would be allowed – surely DPA legislation will prevent it, not to mention people taking legal action because the database is wrong…

    The scary bit is that all you need is to be accused of something to go on the list. Out of boredom I could accuse a dozen people and destroy their lives. Amazing. How can there be no recourse?

    Being treated as guilty without committing a crime is mind-bendingly crazy.

    Sadly this shows another example of how, as a nation, we have become obsessed with everything being put on a database. When this is taken in the context of council surveillance teams, laws making thoughts illegal and so on, it really takes 1984 to a new dimension.

    I think Orwell was being too generous. I honestly dont think he fully realised just how far this once great nation can go.

  2. I saw this headline earlier and didn’t really think anything much of it at the time.

    To be fair, though, you see stuff like this all the time. Like the Frogmarching To A Cashpoint fine thing — it’s a nice idea from an ultra-conservative nutter point of view, but it’s surely never actually going to happen? It’s simply not tenable. The first time someone with some money finds out that they were refused a job on the basis that some guy nobody has any reason to trust says they did something that nobody can prove, the whole thing will end up in court, and that person will be awarded a huge stack of cash. Surely any company stupid enough to risk that for the fringe benefits of having incrementally more trustworthy (or at least less detectably dishonest) staff is doomed anyway?

    Honestly, I’m not 100% confident that it will work out that way, but if I got worked up about every stupid idea that this country comes up with I’d never get anything done (and end up on some kind of blacklist). I’m forced to limit my anger to things that are really happening — heaven knows there are enough as it is to keep me in hissy fits until I die.

  3. I imagine that anyone who tried to implement such a list would quickly be sued into bankruptcy under slander/libel laws.

  4. what will employers require next your medical records ,your first born perhaps given to them for future bonded labour
    i dont know about the world moving forward we seem to be caught in a time warp moving backwards!

  5. Thanks for all the comments.

    I am a bit cheered by your optimism that it’s just another crackpot scheme. I sincerely hope that this would result in them getting sued to bankruptcy…..

    But, how would you know you are on it? How easy would it be to prove you didn’t get a job because you were on it?

    Carol. I agree. Progress is going into reverse.

    Andrew. I know the feeling.

  6. But, how would you know you are on it?

    Couldn’t you just ask? Under the data protection act, surely they’re obliged to tell you what they’ve got on you? (Failing that, I imagine you could always pretend to be an employer vetting you,or have a friend do it at work.)

    I agree with Nathaniel, though, libel laws are the way to go. The system here is set up very much in favour of the complainant, plus they’ve said it whether or not that’s why you didn’t get the job. Heck, you might be able to get the job and still sue them. If you know that the company you applied to work at has used the register, and you know what it says, I think you can pretty reliably infer what was said about you.

  7. Wow, I’m shocked this is taking place in the UK and not the US, unless it already does exist here and we peons are simply not privy to it…

  8. Philly Chief

    Well I hope it’s not also happening in the USA. Your Constitution might give some protection.

    Not that there aren’t blacklists there, here and everywhere. They are usually just hidden and more informal.

    This one exemplifies the banality of the new “repression met with craven submissiveness” mood that is becoming such a feature of life in the UK.

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