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UK Contractors Apologize for Blacklist

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

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Eight of the biggest construction firms in the U.K. have issued an “unprecedented” apology to thousands of workers who were blacklisted and denied work on building projects.

The apology marks a significant step forward in an ongoing High Court case, which could end up costing the contractors tens of millions of pounds in damages, according to union officials and reports.

blacklist
©iStock.com / Lambros Kazan

Some of the biggest construction companies in the U.K. have admitted to being involved in a blacklisting saga.

In 2014, approximately 600 blacklisted construction workers filed suit against nearly 40 defendant construction companies, including  Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and VINCI.

Those firms have admitted breaches of confidence and being part of an organization that collected defamatory information against the workers, according to The Guardian.

The firms are, however, still contesting the effect that it has had on the blacklisted individuals, the news outlet reported, citing legal sources.

The case is expected to go to trial in 2016.

Blacklisting Background

The blacklisting came to light in 2009 after the Information Commissioner’s Office seized a database of 3,213 construction workers reportedly used by dozens of companies to vet new recruits and keep out union, safety and environmental activists, according to the GMB, a general trade union in the U.K.

Many of the workers named were denied jobs as a result of being included in the list.

The list had been compiled by a “clandestine organization” called the Consulting Association, operated by 66-year-old Ian Kerr, according to reports.

The database contained personal information about the individuals, including descriptions, families and relationships. Undercover observations of union meetings and other sensitive intelligence that is believed to have been supplied from either a police source or other security records was also contained in the files, The Guardian has reported.

Engineers
©iStock.com / Stuart Jenner

Union groups say that so far only 1,724 workers know they were on the list.

Things like "poor timekeeper," "will cause trouble," or "Do not touch!" were reportedly noted on the blacklist cards.

Union groups say that so far only 1,724 workers know they were on the list.

Long Road to Justice

The union groups say that while the defendant firms admitted liability for defaming the construction workers Oct. 7 during a High Court hearing in London, the case isn’t over.

“The fact that the companies have acknowledged the distress and anxiety caused to workers and their families now gives us a firm basis to make sure members are given the very substantial compensation they deserve, and that the true nature of the secretive Consulting Association is known,” Maria Ludkin, GMB National Officer for Legal and Corporate Affairs said in a prepared statement.

Unite, another union group whose members are involved in the legal battle, says that the admission marks a significant step in the “road to justice.”

“That road won’t be completed though, or the stain of blacklisting removed, until there is a full public inquiry and the livelihoods of the blacklisted restored by the firms involved giving them a permanent job,” Unite assistant secretary Gail Cartmail said in a statement.

The building workers' union, UCATT, issued a similar statement, describing the admission and apology as a "massive breakthrough."

   

Tagged categories: Construction; Contractors; Laws and litigation; Lawsuits; Subcontractors; Unions; Workers

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