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Blacklisted construction workers win £1.9M settlement

Blacklist workers

Seven construction and engineering firms have agreed to pay £1.9M in damages to 53 workers who were illegally blacklisted. 

Trade union Unite - representing the workers - has agreed to the out-of-court settlement before next month’s scheduled court hearing. 

The blacklisting effort had been covertly funded by more than 40 construction firms between 1993 and 2009 through an organisation called the Consulting Association. It contained previous employment records, details about trade union memberships and a summary of workers’ political stances and was circulated among construction firms with Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Skanska UK, Vinci, Carillion, Sir Robert McAlpine and Balfour Beatty judged to be culpable for its production and use.

The firms, excluding the now defunct Carillion, have also agreed to pay Unite’s legal fees as well as £230,000 into a training fund for all victims of blacklisting who have brought proceedings.

A previous £55M compensation settlement was reached in 2016, after 412 workers discovered that they had been put on the blacklist which prevented them from getting jobs due to their political beliefs. 

A spokesperson for the defendants said: “Despite many organisations subscribing to The Consulting Association, only eight companies – Balfour Beatty, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK, Vinci and Carillion – have been instrumental in addressing the issue and the impact it has had on the lives of affected workers.

“The eight companies have admitted their involvement with The Consulting Association and have issued a full public apology. This apology was accepted and acknowledged as genuine by the unions and other groups representing affected workers. The group has worked hard to make financial settlements for claims from affected workers. It is pleased that the agreement announced today means that these workers will receive compensation without the need for a lengthy trial.

“The group is committed to ensuring that blacklisting can never affect the construction industry again. Each company has implemented stringent and transparent HR practices and policies within their own operations and throughout their supply chains, and they are working together to ensure that the modern UK construction industry provides the highest standards of employment and HR practice for its workforce.”

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett added: “This is a historic agreement that provides some degree of justice to a further group of construction workers who had their working lives needlessly ruined by blacklisting construction companies.

“The creation of a training fund controlled by Unite is a huge breakthrough, and is to be welcomed, as it will allow the union to assist victims of blacklisting return to employment.”

He added: “Unite remains utterly committed to ensuring that those guilty of ruining workers’ lives should be forced to account for their actions. This is why it is absolutely essential that a full public inquiry into blacklisting is imperative.”

Meanwhile, the seven firms are also pursing legal action to ensure that British firm Amec Foster Wheeler also contributes to the £55M compensation bill paid in 2016. They argue that Amec, which became Amec Foster Wheeler in 2014, was responsible for providing 9% of the information contained in the blacklist files and accuse Amex of “wrongful involvement in and use of” the blacklist..

In papers submitted to the High Court, Amec claims that it is not culpable for the production and circulation of the blacklists.

Blacklisted workers managed to access copies of the files on themselves after the blacklist was shut down by the government’s Information Commissioner. The watchdog named 44 firms, including five Amec-owned companies, as being responsible for funding the blacklist.

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