Unionists claim membership means no work
Summary: ELEANOR HALL: While employers in Western Australia say they're being forced to look overseas for skilled workers some of the state's workers say they have been barred from big mining and construction projects because they're union members.....
The unionists are pointing the finger at a labour hire screening company that they say has black-listed them.
But those running the labour system which is used by some major companies deny holding any information about union activity.
In Perth, David Weber reports.
DAVID WEBER: Unions claim hundreds of workers in Western Australia have been black-listed.
The World Today has spoken to dozens of people who believe they've been filtered out through the system called ERMS (Employment Relations Management System).
One of them is AMWU delegate Dave Fox.
DAVE FOX: Well basically I haven't been able to work in construction for the last four and half years obviously because I have been blacklisted out through from my union activities when I was working at Pinjarra back in 2005-2006.
DAVID WEBER: How do you know that this is the case?
DAVE FOX: Well when I first started employment there we had to fill out a form in order to start work. We had to fill out a form that our name would be subject to a thing called ERMS.
I wasn't aware of what that was about at the time. Basically what it is it's an employment and screening process that basically it says if you're eligible to work in future projects, especially in the resource sector.
DAVID WEBER: The form doesn't ask anything about your previous union activity as such does it?
DAVE FOX: No, no it doesn't.
DAVID WEBER: How do you know it's part of this blacklist?
DAVE FOX: Well what happens, it's basically all construction companies involved in the resource sector are party to it. They've helped set it up in the first place. It's basically a form of screening, what we know of it.
And those of us who have been active in the union on those sites and stuff have never been able to get work again. And as I said I haven't been able to work in construction for four and a half years because of it.
And I am aware of many other people that haven't been able to get work or finding it very difficult to get work.
DAVID WEBER: What may have stopped them from getting work do you think? I mean are they in a similar situation to you where they've been vocal on work sites in the past?
DAVE FOX: Yes they would've been vocal. They didn't necessarily have to be delegates, or even there's been safety reps as well.
But no they didn't hold any position. They might have been just actually vocal about the safety, where it can be improved. And it just, at the end of the day things get reported in and when the project finishes they're finding it hard to get onto another project.
DAVID WEBER: The Enable ERMS system was established as a centralised method of checking qualifications for prospective employees.
But people who've been involved in human resources who didn't want to be identified have provided details to The World Today about how the system has allegedly been abused.
They allege third parties with information about union involvement have been used. One source described it as "abhorrent".
In some cases these workers have gone through an induction stage and have then been told they haven't got a job.
Dave Fox says nothing like it happened when he was employed on sites in New South Wales despite his union involvement there.
DAVE FOX: Look there were issues at times around a safety issue or about some firm that hasn't properly paid out the entitlements and that. That was a big issue at the time, still is a big issue and over labour hire as well.
DAVID WEBER: In at least one of the situations that you've been in where you've applied for a job and you haven't got it, you had actually gone through the processes of getting to the point where your qualifications were recognised and you were deemed suitable for the job but then you didn't get it.
DAVE FOX: That's right yeah.
DAVID WEBER: The ERMS system is managed by Bright People Technologies.
The directors deny there's a union blacklist. They say they're frustrated with reports of the existence of a blacklist because they're simply isn't one.
They say the company has no record of union activity of individuals.
They say the company does not use third parties and as far as they're aware no-one in the office has been doing their own checking of union backgrounds.
ELEANOR HALL: David Weber in Perth.