Friday, 29 November 2013

Blacklist Protest Today at High Court

Blacklisting protest at the High Court
9am - 10am Friday 29th November 2013
Royal Courts of Justice
The Strand
Organised by: Blacklist Support Group 
Workers blacklisted in the construction industry for raising concerns about safety issues or being members of a trade union will be protesting outside the High Court on Friday morning. The protest is to coincide with the first hearing in the High Court claim being brought by Guney, Clark & Ryan solicitors on behalf of nearly 100 claimants (Steve Acheson & others v Sir Robert McAlpine & others). Counsel in the claim is Sir Hugh Tomlinson QC and is supported by the Blacklist Support Group.
The full list of defenent companies are: Sir Robert McAlpine, Balfour Beatty, BAM, Carillion, Costain, Laing, Kier Ltd, Skanska, Vinci, Taylor Woodrow and AMEC. Evidence from the Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation into blacklisting has shown that the individuals who ran the blacklist were directors of these companies including Cullum McAlpine, founding chairamn of the Consulting Association blacklist. Decisions about the illegal blacklist were discussed and agreed at Board level. 
Steve Acheson, lead claimant and chair of the Blacklist Support Group said:
'Its amazing how these millionaires can sit round tables and make judgements that affect lives on a permanent basis and that's acceptable despite the laws it breaks. Yet blow up a giant inflatable rat and all hell is let loose in the press.  These directors have worked outside the law and breached our human rights. They know what they have done wrong and what they were inflicting on thousands of families and I would like to see some of these face prison sentences.'

Photo of Steve Acheson at High Court attached (credit: Mick Holder NUJ)
On the 29th November 2013, the first ever High Court hearing in relation to “blacklisting” within the construction industry will take place. This hearing relates to the High Court claim brought by Guney, Clark & Ryan on behalf of 79 individuals. Those individuals and Guney, Clark & Ryan have worked tirelessly over the past 4 years in pursuit of justice for those who have suffered due to having been placed on a blacklist. Guney, Clark & Ryan issued the claim on 20th March 2012 against Sir Robert McAlpine. In seeking to defend that claim, they have added as co-defendants 10 of the other major construction companies in the UK namely, Balfour Beatty, BAM , Carillion, Costain, Laing, Kier Ltd, Skanska, Vinci, Taylor Woodrow and AMEC
Until very recently, there had been little or no support from the trades unions, of which many of those individuals who are bringing the claim belong. Indeed it is only because of the hard work and dedication of these Claimants and Guney, Clark & Ryan in progressing their High Court claim against the face of so much opposition, that the Unions had to sit up, take notice and take action. As a result, with much media fanfare, the GMB in June 2013, UNITE in November 2013 and UCATT in November 2013 have all now also issued High Court claims of their own, and are running media campaigns highlighting their “fight” for justice for blacklisted workers despite years of previous inaction.
A recent development has been an announcement by 8 of the construction companies involved in the High Court action initiated by Guney, Clark & Ryan to set up a compensation scheme, the Construction Workers Compensation Scheme (TCWCS). This is only in its infancy and a very basic draft framework of the proposals was sent out to interested parties including the trades unions. This has led to some inaccurate press reports of individuals being offered compensation ranging from £1000 up to £100,000. Not one of the 79 individuals bringing the High Court claim, nor any of the other 100-plus potential claimants that Guney, Clark & Ryan are advising have been made any offer, nor is it expected that any such offers will be made in the near future.

Lastly, after four and a half years of pressure, the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has finally confirmed that they will now write directly to 1200 individuals named on the blacklist. However, somewhat incomprehensibly, the ICO (an ostensibly neutral government body) when writing to these individuals will direct them to the Construction Workers Compensation Scheme (TWCS), referred to above, which is run by the very people who blacklisted them in the first place. The fact that the ICO is willing to direct victims to these firms clearly calls into question their supposed impartiality. It is worth remembering that, to date, the ICO has not taken any criminal legal action against a single blacklisting firm despite mountains of documentary evidence that they have repeatedly and consistently broken the law.
Blacklist Support Group

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