700 blacklisted workers to take on construction firms in High Court battle

Trade unionists bring case against firms over illegal blacklisting

A DECADES-LONG battle between construction workers and the firms which blacklisted them will feature at the High Court this week as 700 affected workers seek compensation.

Represented by GMB, Ucatt and Unite unions, more than 700 people are suing eight major construction firms for compensation, after the firms admitted use of blacklisting tactics last year.

The first court date is Thursday 7 April, in London's High Court. The defendants in the case are Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Skanska, Kier, Vinci and Laing O'Rourke.

Campaigners also hope the recent recovery of a computer used by the blacklisting firm The Consulting Association, which is being scanned for recoverable data , could open the door to new evidence on the issue.

Dave Smith, secretary with campaign group Blacklist Support Group, was said : "Lots of people involved in the blacklisting conspiracy will be having sleepless nights worrying what is about to come out."

The use of blacklisting in the construction industry was uncovered in 2009, when the offices of The Consulting Association (TCA) were raided by the Information Commissioner's officers. They retrieved personal files on over 3,000 workers, activists and trade unionists, but the vast majority of the evidence was never removed, leading to speculation journalists and campaigners that the number of those affected was actually much higher.

Blacklisting was used by construction companies to single out and refuse work to 'troublemakers' - often those active in trade unions or political campaigns, or those who raised health and safety issues on site.

The eight leading construction firms had issued an apology at the High Court in London for their involvement in the blacklist scheme.

In February this year construction companies were ordered to pay out millions of pounds in compensation to 71 workers who had been illegally blacklisted.

The issue has been raised in the Scottish Parliament by Labour MSP Neil Findlay and others. From April 2016 public bodies in Scotland will be legally required to exclude firms involved in blacklisting from consideration for public contracts.

In March this year 200 people marched through Dundee to protest the awarding of a construction contract for Dundee Waterfront to blacklisting firm Sir Robert McAlpine.

Many people affected by blacklisting are said to have accepted out-of-court settlements in recent years, but some are refusing to settle, instead taking the companies to court.

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Picture courtesy of Andy O'Donnell