Thursday, 29 August 2013

Whose in bed with the blacklisters? McAlpine dishes the dirt on blacklisting construction companies!

It’s often said there’s no room for sentiment in business and this undoubtedly applies in the dog-eat-dog world, of the British construction industry.

The construction giant Sir Robert McAlpine (SRM) are being sued by more than 100 workers who claim that their livelihoods and careers were destroyed when their names were placed on a blacklist operated on behalf of the construction industry by a shadowy and secretive organisation known as the Consulting Association (C.A.)

In 2009 the offices of the C.A., were raided and closed by staff from the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), who discovered that the C.A. had been operating a blacklist and an illegal database that contained the names of over 3,000 construction workers. Many of those on the blacklist were trade unionists and other ‘troublesome’ workers who had raised safety issues or taken an employer to an employment tribunal.

The original action brought by construction workers who were supported by the Blacklist Support Group (BSG), targeted SRM because it was believed the company had the worst record for blacklisting and was instrumental in setting up the C.A. But as part of their defence, SRM have now implicated other companies and have asked the court to include them as co-defendants in the action. They have named nine other major contractors who were responsible for running 34 other companies. SRM say that if they are found guilty of conspiracy to put together a blacklist aimed at preventing people from working as well as breaches of the Data Protection Act (DPA) – allegations that it denies – then the other named companies, Balfour Beatty, Skanska, Carillion, Costain, Laing O’ Rourke, Kier, Vinci Skanska, Amec and Bam, should also be found equally guilty.

In legal documents, SRM allege that both Balfour Beatty and Skanska adopted a particularly hard-line approach when it came to refusing to employ people who were on the list held by the C.A. The company says that other firms who were signed-up members of the C.A. were “more inclined than others” to refuse to give work to individuals on its books and adds, “It appears that the Balfour Beatty companies were particularly ‘hard-nosed’ and took a particularly hard-line in this regard compared to other members.” Skanska is accused by SRM of refusing to permit workers on its sites on approximately 103 occasions after it made enquiries with the C.A., about 127 workers.

With individual claims running from £10,000 up to £30,000, SRM could finish up having to pay out millions of pounds in damages if the workers claim is successful. In order to avoid this, SRM have dished the dirt on these other companies and they claim that should they be found guilty, these other companies should pay a contribution to any damages and costs awarded to the workers in proportions to be decided by the court.

Although many council’s are beginning to ban construction firms that had links to the C.A. from public contracts, some council’s such as the Labour council in Tameside,  Greater Manchester, have jumped into bed with the blacklisting construction company, Carillion, which now runs its estate and management facilities and as from next week, will take over all school catering in the borough.

The current printed issue of NORTHERN VOICES No.14, is now available for sale - see below.   This issue N.V.14 also with an article about Tameside entitled 'Who is in bed with the blacklisters' and an interview with blacklisted electrician George Tapp can still be obtained by writing or contacting the people whose details are below:
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included). Cheques made payable to 'Northern Voices' should be sent c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.

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