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A union picket outside Skanska's AGM, with Graham Bowker, Justin Bowden, Dave Smith and Roy Bentham. Photo: Loukas Christodoulou. Swedish Radio

Workers protest over Skanska blacklist

"No holidays, my car's ten years old"
4:44 min

Swedish building company Skanska was one of the firms that was involved in a UK blacklist, and this week saw protests at the company's annual general meeting of shareholders. The blacklist was a secret list of people that construction companies did not want to employ. This included political and union activists and people who were said to make too much of a fuss about health and safety.

The secret database was shut down in 2009 by UK authorities, but by then Skanska had already checked up on 66,000 people, paying over SEK 2 million for the service.

Outside Skansa's AGM, a group of blacklisted workers organised by the GMB union, including electrician Graham Bowker, picketed on Thursday.

Bowker says to Radio Sweden that he was put on the list for his union activity, and that as a result he has only worked for four of the last ten years, and that it has had a serious effect on his life. "No holidays, my car's ten years old. Little things like going out for a beer with the family, days by the seaside: just things things you can't do."

Veronica Rörsgård is the head of human resources for the whole of Skanska. She says that creating and using a blacklist like this is "entirely and completely unnacceptable," and that it is against Skanska's values and policies. She says they took "strong action internally" when they got the information in 2009.

But how did this happen in the first place?

Rörsgård says that Skanska is a large and wide-spread company, that was more decentralised in the past, which led to some people doing the wrong thing. "Unfortunately this was a part of the industry culture, and also part of the Skanska culture in some parts of our UK business."

She says that they have brought in a lot of training for managers, to make sure that this does not happen again. But that they do not want to point the finger at any individuals. She says that it "could be the case" that the people invovled in running the blacklist are still managers working for Skanska.

But blacklisted electrician Graham Bowker says that this is not good enough, and that the managers responsible should be fired. "They put us out of work, so they should be put out of work," he says.

Rörsgård says that if any of those on the blacklist feel Skanska affected their ability to get work, they are welcome to contact the company, which will take each case on its merits.

But Graham Bowker says that if Skanska want to show that there is really no blacklist any more, they should employ him, and other who lost so much work.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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