Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Construction workers blacklisted for union activities to get compensation

Published 09/05/2016

Blacklisted construction workers are to receive compensation
Blacklisted construction workers are to receive compensation

A long running campaign for compensation for construction workers who were blacklisted for union activities has finally ended, with millions of pounds set to be paid out.

Unite announced it had reached a settlement with construction firms which will see 256 workers receive more than £10 million in compensation.

Unite said payouts could range from £25,000 to £200,000 per claimant, depending on such factors as the loss of income and the seriousness of the defamation.

The GMB, which reached a settlement last month, said it understands the total value of compensation in the case was around £75 million for 771 claimants with legal costs on both sides estimated at £25 million.

Blacklisting came to light in 2009 when the Information Commissioner's Office seized a Consulting Association database of 3,213 construction workers and environmental activists used by 44 companies to vet new recruits and keep out of employment trade union and health and safety activists.

Some of those on the list said they were denied work, while a handful moved abroad because they could not find jobs in this country.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "The massive scale of the agreed damages shows the gravity of the misdeeds of major construction companies which created and used the Consulting Group as a vehicle to enable them to blacklist trade unionists.

"The sums to be paid out go a considerable way to acknowledge the hurt, suffering and loss of income our members and their families have been through over many years.

"Under the agreement they can once more apply for jobs in the construction industry without fear of discrimination.

"This settlement is a clear statement on behalf of the trade union movement that never again can such nefarious activities be allowed to happen against decent working people trying to earn an honest living in a tough industry.

"The wheels of justice may turn slowly, but like Hillsborough, eventually justice is done and is seen to be done.

"The message is clear that there can never be any hiding place for bosses in the construction and any other industry thinking of reverting to shameful blacklisting practices against committed trade unionists."

Unite director of legal services Howard Beckett said: "Unite is proud to have fought right to the end to get the maximum we believed was possible against companies that had to be dragged kicking and screaming to make unprecedented admissions of guilt last October.

"In addition to financial compensation, admissions of guilt and formal apologies, the companies have agreed, as a result of this litigation, to issue guidance to site managers to ensure blacklisting is not occurring on a local level and to ensure that Unite members receive no less favourable treatment for job applications, as a result of this litigation."

Tim Roache, GMB general secretary said: "We have secured £5.4 million of justice for the GMB members blacklisted by powerful construction companies who thought they were above the law.

"For decades household name construction companies implemented an illegal blacklisting system, which denied a generation of trade union activists and health and safety reps an opportunity to provide for themselves and their families. Finally they have been held to account in public and at great cost to them financially and reputationally.

"Preventing 3,213 workers earning a living to support their families was a gross injustice and government and employers' organisations must never forget this sordid episode. Without strong regulation and penalties holding them to account, employers will always be tempted to put profit above people."

Maria Ludkin, GMB legal director, added: "We have always felt that our members deserved substantial compensation, and today we are satisfied that we have achieved the best settlements possible from the blacklisters. All GMB could ever get for our members was compensation and a full apology.

"We could never get back years of their family lives stolen by the blacklisters who believed it was acceptable in Britain to put their profits ahead of health and safety and ordinary people's lives and trade union voice in the workplace.

"The companies involved tried to keep this dirty little secret hidden. GMB was determined to ensure that that was not going to happen and we have fought tooth and nail to ensure a just outcome.

"To the bitter end, the companies have remained in denial that they were blacklisters, fearful that public acknowledgement could cost them public sector contracts worth billions of pounds."

The final settlement figure of £75 million includes costs and covers members of the GMB, Unite and Ucatt unions as well as others on the blacklist, according to the GMB.

Construction companies said in a statement: "Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O'Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci PLC today announce that they have settled the litigation between them and individuals represented by Unite regarding the activities of the Economic League and the Consulting Association.

"The construction companies settled with the claimants represented by GMB, Ucatt and GCR (law firm Guney, Clark & Ryan) on 29 April. The settlement with Unite brings to a close all the claims in the litigation.

"In October 2015, the construction companies - unlike any other companies involved in the vetting system - spontaneously and openly acknowledged that the system was unlawful in various respects and made a full public apology, which was widely reported at the time.

"Unite, Ucatt, GMB and GCR have now all accepted this public apology.

"The construction companies have offered financial settlements which all claimants represented by Unite, Ucatt, GMB and GCR have also now accepted.

"All parties have also agreed a joint statement to be read in Court as part of this settlement.

"These construction companies wish to draw a line under this matter and continue to work together with the trade unions at national, regional and site level to ensure that the modern UK construction industry provides the highest standards of employment and HR practice for its workforce."

Dave Smith, secretary of the Blacklist Support Group, said: "Despite all of the denials and attempts to cover up their secret conspiracy, the largest multinationals in the construction sector have been forced to pay out millions in compensation.

"Make no mistake, the High Court action is a historic victory for the trade union movement against the vicious face of free market capitalism.

"The blacklist firms might have hoped that by buying their way out of a show trial, that the scandal that has disgraced an entire industry will go away: it won't.

"Blacklisting is a human rights conspiracy against trade unionism by big business and shady anti-democratic political policing units within the British state."

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph