Last edited 10 Dec 2020

Blacklisting case statement

On 7 October 2015, a statement was made by the 8 firms involved in the ‘blacklisting’ case brought by trade unions. The firms were; Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O'Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and VINCI PLC.

These are the eight contractors that used the services of The Consulting Association (TCA), which held records of more than 3,000 people (including records transferred from The Economic League). The records were intended to protect the industry from the labour issues that blighted the industry in the 1970's and 80's, but they actually resulted in workers being blacklisted without their knowledge, for unknown reasons, and with no system for review, appeal, correction or redress. This left some workers unable to find work for many years. The records were seized by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in 2009 and TCA was closed down.

The Construction Workers Compensation Scheme (TCWCS) was launched on 4 July 2014 to compensate construction workers that had been ‘blacklisted’ by contractors. However, union leaders did not agreed to the scheme, suggesting it was a cynical PR stunt intended to derail High Court proceedings and that the proposed compensation was inadequate.

The 2015 statement made by the contractos revised their pleadings, reading:

On 7 October 2015 we, the eight companies that comprise the Macfarlanes Defendants, submitted a Re-Amended Generic Defence to the Court. In this document we lay out clearly a number of admissions; these admissions are also covered in the accompanying summary which, we hope, will provide interested parties with an easily accessible reference. Both documents contain a full and unreserved apology for our part in a vetting information system run in the construction industry first through the Economic League and subsequently through The Consulting Association; we recognise and regret the impact it had on employment opportunities for those workers affected and for any distress and anxiety it caused to them and their families.

We are making these admissions now as we believe it is the right thing to do; we are keen to be as transparent as possible and to do what we can to simplify the High Court hearing scheduled for mid-2016. We hope that the clarity this brings will be welcomed by the affected workers. Indeed, ever since the closure of The Consulting Association in 2009, we have been focused on trying to do the right thing by affected workers. This was why we set up The Construction Workers Compensation Scheme (TCWCS) in 2014 to provide those who felt they had been impacted by the existence of the vetting system with a fast and simple way of accessing compensation. Currently, we have paid compensation to 308 people who have contacted TCWCS and we are processing 39 ongoing eligible claims.

We remain committed to TCWCS. We are approaching the High Court hearing in the spirit of openness and full transparency and continue to defend the claim strongly in relation to issues of causation and loss.

In response to the statement, the Unite union said: “As well as securing an admission that the construction firms had breached data protection and were liable for the unlawful use of the private details of Unite members (and others), Unite crucially secured a ground-breaking admission that its members had been defamed. The additional admission of defamation means that Unite members are in line for larger pay outs to compensate for the damage inflicted on their lives by blacklisting.

Maria Ludkin, GMB national officer for legal and corporate affairs, said: "Even though it has taken years of fighting in the High Court, the companies have now acknowledged that they infringed workers' rights to confidentiality, privacy, reputation and data protection, which is an important battle to have won."

It is thought the case will be heard in the High Court in May 2016.

In January 2016, as the date for the High Court hearing approached it was revealed that offers of compensation had increased significantly, with some workers being offered as much as £160,000. Ref Construction Enquirer 18 January 2016.

At a hearing in January 2016, it was ruled that 30 contractors must disclose emails and correspondence linked to the case and pay costs for the hearing. Howard Beckett, director of legal services at Unite, said: “Despite admitting their guilt, it is shameful the lengths that some of the construction firms involved in blacklisting have gone to cover up their involvement. It is only now after sustained legal action with the support of Unite that the lid is being lifted on a scandal which has ruined countless lives and led to hardship for many more.”

On 9 May 2016, it was announced that a final settlement of £4 million had been agreed with Unite. It is thought that this brought the total payments to more than £10 million to be paid to 256 workers. Payments were expected to range from £10,000 to 200,000. This is in addition to undisclosed sums paid out through the compensation scheme.

In May 2017, a year after the case was settled, Unite expressed concerns that blacklisting was still taking place and urged the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) to investigate.

For more information see: Blacklisting.

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