10 Oct 2013

Construction firms set up fund for blacklist victims

Workers listed on a secret blacklist by major construction companies will be compensated after years of campaigning by trade unions.

Major construction companies will offer compensation to workers whose names were on the secret industry blacklist run by an organisation called The Consulting Association.

It was discovered that more than 3,200 names, mainly of building workers, were kept on the list. Many involved claimed they were denied work, often for raising concerns about health and safety on building sites, or for political activity.

The eight firms announced that they are working together to develop a scheme to compensate construction workers whose names were on The Consulting Association (TCA) database.

There should be a public inquiry into this outrageous abuse of human rights
Dave Smith

A statement from the firms explained; “The companies – Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and VINCI PLC – all apologise for their involvement with TCA and the impact that its database may have had on any individual construction worker.”

“The companies have joined together to establish the Construction Workers Compensation Scheme.

Legal action is also being taken on behalf of some of those on the list.

The companies involved say they would now support the introduction of a code of conduct “to ensure nothing like this can happen within the construction industry again.”

Unions welcomed the news but some campaigners warned that more should be done.

Steve Murphy, general secretary of the building workers’ union Ucatt, said:

“This is a step forward. The companies involved are admitting their guilt for the first time and are recognising that the victims of blacklisting deserve compensation.

Victim’s journey

Civil engineer Dave Smith helped start the Blacklist Support Group and campaiged for years on the issue after being blacklisted in the early 90s when he led a number of on-site safety campaigns.

He comes from family of construction workers – his father, uncles and cousins work as electricians, plumbers and bricklayers and he worked on various projects in London for more than a decade without a problem.

The blacklist contained a 36-page file on his career detailing his work history and safety concerns raised on building sites, along with as photographs and details of his family. The file included his home address, national insurance number, car details, union safety rep’s credentials and newspaper cuttings.

On one occasion he says he was told he was wasting his time calling because his name up as “Code 99” on their internal system, which meant he was not to be given any work.

“There should be a public inquiry into this outrageous abuse of human rights. If an inquiry can be held into tittle-tattle on the mobile phones of celebrities, why can’t something be done for working-class people,” he stated.

Former police officer Peter Francis told the Guardian that he believes intelligence he collected as an undercover officer later appeared on the blacklist files.

The Metropolitan Police launched an inquiry into allegations their own officers colluded in blacklisting construction workers last February. The names of a number of environmental activists were also on the lists.

A Channel 4 News report revealed Balfour Beatty had used blacklists to check workers involved in the Olympic venues sites.

‘Rights abused’

Justin Bowden of the GMB union said that companies admitting they engaged in a “terrible abuse of civil rights” of thousands of UK workers is an important step.

“The next step is clean up and pay up,” he stated. “This remains our demand on the construction industry.”

The Blacklist Support Group also welcomed the announcement but noted that there are no “firm proposals, only a vague promise of compensation for any workers with a ‘legitimate claim'”.

“We want every single person who is on The Consulting Association blacklist to be compensated and jobs guaranteed for blacklisted workers on major construction projects,” the group stated.

The Consulting Association was shut down following a raid on their West Midlands offices by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Unions claimed workers continued to be discriminated against if their names were on the list – a total of 44 firms were found to be using the blacklist.

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna has said Labour has called for companies guilty of blacklisting to come forward, apologise and provide compensation.