61 MILLION REASONS WHY THE TORIES & THEIR BIG BUSINESS FRIENDS ARE ‘ALL IN IT TOGETHER’

Blacklist Support Group statement

Big Ben will now cost £61m to renovate and all that taxpayers’ money will be trousered by the kings of blacklisting Sir Robert McAlpine Limited. Despite a debate in parliament and questions being asked to the Speaker of the House of Commons, all the sympathy from MPs has come to nothing. Again. This company was at the very centre of a national scandal  that violated the human rights of over 3000 workers over a 40 year period. Sir Robert McAlpine Limited has also been a major donor to the Conservative Party for decades.

The Blacklist Support Group is sick to death of those in authority promising to take action but repeatedly delivering nada. The award of the contract to McAlpine is a two-fingered salute to all blacklisted workers and the ‘democratic values’ that Big Ben is supposed to signify.

The Big Ben announcement came at the same time that minister Margot James reiterated the government’s position that the Tory government would not ban any blacklisting company from public contracts in a letter to Glasgow MP, Chris Stephens.

Roy Bentham, BSG joint secretary and blacklisted carpenter from Liverpool, commented:

“This is a case of the nasty party rearing its ugly head once more. The fact that so many of those complicit still work within the industry tells us everything. Only a full public inquiry will get to the truth of this conspiracy that blighted the lives of so many honest hard working families.”

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Blacklist Support Group: Construction giant Sir Robert McAlpine faces Big Ben backlash

The Speaker of the House of Commons and the Sir Robert McAlpine chief executive both joined the war of words about the £29m contract to refurbish Big Ben being awarded to the blacklist company. On Tuesday 5th September during a Westminster Hall debate on blacklisting MPs including Labour and SNP frontbenchers Jack Dromey and Chris Stephens joined Chuka Umunna in calling for the company that was at the very heart of The Consulting Association human rights scandal to be stripped of the Big Ben contract.

The former shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna went further on Thursday 7th by raising a ‘point of order’ on the floor of the House of Commons asking the Speaker, his “views and advice with regard to the matter of Big Ben” adding, “what message do you think it sends to the victims of this gross injustice for this House to award a contract to a firm that not only funded the Consulting Association, but provided its first chair and ​another chair?”

John Bercow replied that the question was “perfectly legitimately and reasonable” adding that although the company had been awarded the initial contract to provide scaffolding, the full contract had not yet been officially awarded to McAlpine. The Speaker of the House of Commons summed up by confirming “It is important. We are sensitive to it and we will be conscious in the days ahead of the reputational importance” and told MPs that he would make enquiries and make a further statement.

Stung by the ongoing criticism, the chief executive of Sir Robert McAlpine Limited, Paul Hamer wrote a letter to a number of newspapers claiming that “blacklisting “has no place now or in the future” at his firm and that the contractor was committed fully to “a zero-tolerance policy towards blacklisting, illegal or unfair recruitment practices”.  Adding that “I am pleased to confirm that Sir Robert McAlpine complies fully with all legislation to prevent blacklisting and is committed to fair and transparent recruitment.”

Roy Bentham, blacklisted carpenter from Liverpool and Blacklist Support Group, joint secretary responded to the McAlpine statement: “Paul Hamer might be the CEO but Cullum McAlpine owns the company and I sat behind Cullum McAlpine when he gave evidence to the select committee investigation. Upon advice from his lawyer who was sitting next to him throughout, the blacklister in chief smugly refused to answer questions put to him by MPs. The select committee report stated that they were “far from certain that all of our witnesses have told us ‘the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’, despite many of them being under oath”. Blacklisted workers completely agree with that assessment by MPs

“Thirty years ago Sir Robert McAlpine Limited denied blacklisting people as part of the Economic League, 10 years ago they denied blacklisting people as part of The Consulting Association. And now they assure us that they’ve given up blacklisting completely. Given the company’s previous honesty on blacklisting, how could anybody possibly not believe them now?”

Unite assistant general secretary, Gail Cartmail said workers were “continuing to have their lives ruined simply for being a member of a union”.

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MPs call for blacklist firm Sir Robert McAlpine to be stripped of £29m Big Ben contract

MPs lined up to call for a public inquiry into blacklisting and for Sir Robert McAlpine to be stripped of the contract to refurbish Big Ben during a 5 September parliamentary debate.

Blacklisting company Sir Robert McAlpine has already been paid £3.5m of public money to carry out the enabling works on Big Ben and are in line for another bumper £29m pay-out to complete the 4 year refurbishment project. The human rights of over 3,000 construction workers were breached when they were repeatedly denied work simply for their trade union membership. MPs questioned whether Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, as the driving force behind the blacklist, was the right contractor to be carrying out the works on Big Ben: the symbol of British democratic values.

Shadow minister for labour, Jack Dromey, said: “there has to be consequences for historic blacklisting” adding that “it is a scandal that the iconic Big Ben contract has been given to that company.!

SNP employment spokesperson Chris Stephens MP said: “Blacklisting firms have grown rich on public sector contracts” arguing that is was an ‘act of bad faith by the government that the one of the main perpetrators is being given access to public money.”

The call for Sir Robert McAlpine to be stripped of the Big Ben contract was repeated by numerous MPs including Chuka Umunna throughout the packed Westminster Hall debate.

During the debate, Chuka Umunna presented previously unreported evidence gathered from Freedom of Information Act requests that obtained emails between Crossrail and contractors on the publicly funded project that reveal continuing surveillance of union members. Umunna described the new evidence as “ugly underbelly of this sector that continues to go unaddressed” and repeated the call for a full public inquiry to finally get the truth behind this hidden human rights conspiracy.

Conservative minister Margot James flailed in her attempted defence of the government’s inaction, claiming that the “government take the issue of blacklisting very seriously” but point blankly refused to answer direct questions about the controversial Big Ben contract from Chuka Umunna, Chris Stephens and Jack Dromey.

The blacklisting conspiracy is linked to the undercover police scandal as senior officers from police units engaged in spying on so-called ‘domestic extremists’ attended and gave a PowerPoint presentation at one of the meetings of the illegal Consulting Association. Chaka Umunna said documents “strongly suggests that some of the evidence was supplied with the collusion of the police or the security services,”

Vic Williams, a blacklisted electrician from Leytonstone in east London, said: “Twelve months ago, the big construction companies gave us an apology for their involvement in blacklisting. They were only sorry for getting caught. McAlpine are coining in taxpayers money, they’re laughing at us. If MPs had any moral compass, they’d strip McAlpine of the Big Ben contract”.

Dave Smith, blacklisted construction worker and secretary of the Blacklist Support Group commented: “In all the media coverage of the Houses of parliament construction works, Big Ben was described as the symbol of British democratic values. So how can a company that breached the human rights of thousands of honest construction workers be a suitable contractor for one of the most prestigious construction projects in the world?

“The iconic bell of Big Ben might have fallen silent but blacklisted workers refuse to remain silent until those guilty of orchestrating this national scandal are forced to account for their actions at a public inquiry”.

Sir Robert McAlpine Limited is a major financial donor to the Conservative Party.

 

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Blacklist campaigner highlights injustice

Only one person has been prosecuted for their criminal culpability in the blacklisting scandal, with not a single construction director behind the illegal operation having faced charges.

However, Ian Kerr, the former head of the Consulting Association – the industry financed organisation that spied on union and safety activists and provided the information to major site firms – has now been joined by award-winning human rights campaigner Dave Smith, as the focus of a prosecution.

Smith, a blacklisted worker and secretary of the Blacklist Support Group, was found guilty this week but discharged at the City of London magistrates’ court for disrupting traffic in Park Lane, London, in a blacklisting protest in March last year.

Commenting after his conviction, he said since the scandal erupted, “only two people have ever been convicted because of their involvement with blacklisting — Ian Kerr and me.” Smith was not fined but the offence will be held on his record for the next six months.

The Green Party this week came out in support of calls for a public inquiry into the practice of blacklisting trade unionists and campaigners. Outgoing Green leader Natalie Bennett said: “The time has come for a public inquiry into the shameful practice of blacklisting. It’s vital that those who were discriminated against, and the public, gain an understanding of how this information on suspected trade unionists was collected and how it was shared with prospective employers.”

Green Party member of the House of Lords Jenny Jones added that companies caught using blacklisting should not be left with the responsibility for ridding the industry of the practice.

“That’s why parliament must step up and kick-start a public inquiry into blacklisting,” the baroness said. “I’m also urging any worker who was discriminated in this way to speak to me about their experiences. I’ll do all that I can to take this forward in the Lords.”

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Undercover police spied on rail union activists

Research by the Blacklist Support Group (BSG) has revealed that an undercover police officer masqueraded as a union activist to spy on members of the rail union RMT.

Photographic evidence unearthed by BSG secretary Dave Smith shows that in October 2004 Carlo Neri was present at a union protest following the sacking of the prominent union activist Steve Hedley at the Kings Cross terminal for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL).

The presence of the undercover officer from the Metropolitan Police’s Special Demonstration Squad was captured on camera by freelance photographer Andrew Wiard. The photographs show Neri standing behind an RMT banner with the slogan ‘Reinstate Steve Hedley’ while handing out leaflets to construction workers who had walked out in support of the victimised union activist.

Steve, now an elected senior assistant general secretary at RMT, commented: “I am appalled that a secret police spy thought that it was justified to turn up on a peaceful RMT picket line in order to gather information. I had earlier housed this person rent free as he claimed he was being made homeless and feel shocked that taxpayers’ money could be used like this to betray the trust of people engaged in completely legitimate industrial action.”

The photographs were rediscovered by Dave Smith while undertaking research for the updated version of the groundbreaking book ‘Blacklisted’.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “RMT has been aware for some time that there was a destroyed ‘rail file’ at the heart of the blacklisting conspiracy that has never been properly investigated.”

He added: “Both of RMT’s assistant general secretaries, Steve Hedley and Mick Lynch, were blacklisted and the union is demanding to know how many others were being spied on by the police and the employers’ organisations. The fight for truth and justice goes on.”

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Blacklisting firms face a £75m bill

Eight of the country’s biggest construction firms have agreed to pay an estimated £50m in compensation to blacklisted workers, equating to an average payout of £65,000 to each of the 771 workers.

Some of the agreed payments to workers victimised for their union and safety activities are thought to be in excess of 200,000. Legal fees are estimated to run to around £25m for the long-running legal case, scheduled to go before the high court as the 9 May settlement deal was finalised.

Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci settled the outstanding 256 cases with the union Unite for £10,435,000. Construction union UCATT then revealed it had secured £8.9m on behalf of the 156 cases it took for its blacklisted members. GMB said it settled at £5.4m for 116 blacklisted workers, plus £3m of legal costs under a deal struck last month.

And law firm Guney, Clark and Ryan is understood to have secured £6.6m for 167 victims it represented.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The massive scale of the agreed damages – more than £10 million – shows the gravity of the misdeeds of these major construction companies which created and used the Consulting Group [Association] as a vehicle to enable them to blacklist trade unionists on behalf of more than 30 construction companies. The sums to be paid out go a considerable way to acknowledge the hurt, suffering and loss of income our members and their families have been through over many years.”

Dave Smith, secretary of the Blacklist Support Group, said: “Despite all of the denials and attempts to cover up their secret conspiracy, the largest multinationals in the construction sector have been forced to pay out millions in compensation. Make no mistake, the High Court action is a historic victory for the trade union movement against the vicious face of free market capitalism.”

TUC head of safety, Hugh Robertson, noted: “Without the support that of GMB, Unite, UCATT and of course the Blacklist Support Group, the workers would have either received nothing, or, at the very least, some token amount. That in itself is clear evidence of the importance of strong independent trade unions.”

The settlement came as industry leaders including Sir Robert McAlpine’s Cullum McAlpine – the man named as behind the most recent reinvention of the blacklister The Consulting Association – faced the prospect of questions in open court about their role in the victimisation of thousands of workers and activists.

Media coverage: Construction Enquirer. The Guardian. Personnel Today. BBC News Online.

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Blacklisting ‘wretches’ pay out millions in compensation after BSG led campaign

Hundreds of workers who were blacklisted by large firms in an illegal conspiracy have won compensation following a long-running lawsuit.

Last week approximately 420 trade unionists secured damages from major construction firms after launching legal action four years ago. The out of course settlement was reached by lawyers acting for the Blacklist Support Group and the unions GMB and UCATT. It brings to more than 600 the number of workers who have received compensation after their names appeared on a construction industry financed and run Consulting Association blacklist.

The amount of compensation has not been disclosed but, according to campaigners, could exceed £50m. It has been previously disclosed that some blacklisted workers have been awarded damages ranging from £25,000 to £200,000.

Steve Acheson, a blacklisted electrician from Manchester who chairs the union-backed Blacklist Support Group, commented: “Seven years ago when the files were discovered these firms denied everything and offered us nothing. Two years ago, their misnamed compensation scheme offered most people £1,000. These wretches have now been forced to pay out millions in compensation, as well as legal bills for four sets of lawyers. That’s a big kick in the profit margin.”

He added: “The construction firms may ‘wish to draw a line under this matter’ but for blacklisted workers this is still unfinished business. Until such time that the full conspiracy is exposed and those responsible for the human rights abuse are called to account in a court of law, we will never stop fighting.”

The claims were brought against Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci, who all paid for and used the blacklisting services provided by the Consulting Association.

Unite is continuing its High Court blacklisting case against the construction firms on behalf of 90 members.

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Blacklisting exposes Trade Union Bill’s folly

Britain’s blacklisting scandal, which saw thousands of construction union reps victimised or denied work for raising safety concerns, provides ‘clear proof’ of the dangers posed by the government’s Trade Union Bill.

TUC head of safety, Hugh Robertson, says the first tranche of compensation settlements – amounting to £5.6m shared between 71 workers – “are no recompense for the thousands of ruined lives that resulted from the illegal actions of these companies, but they do show the importance of being in a union.”

Writing in the Left Foot Forward blog, he noted: “Without the support that the GMB, Unite and UCATT gave and the work they did with the incredible Blacklist Support Group, the workers would have either received nothing, or, at the very least, some token amount.” He said more cases were due before the High Court in May, but added: “Of course it is more than just about money.

The unions also want to protect future workers, which is why they are pushing for a full inquiry into blacklisting and strong laws to make sure that this scandal is never repeated. The Trade Union Bill is an attempt to stop us doing that by making it harder for us to recruit and represent members, campaign, and strike.”

He warned that the Bill would give the Certification Officer new powers to investigate membership records, even where no complaints have been made. “This all raises concerns about the confidentiality of union membership and activism,” Robertson notes.

“The blacklisting scandal is clear proof of why we need trade unions. Workers need them to ensure they are protected and, when things go wrong, to fight for their rights against employers, through the courts and to campaign for action from governments.

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‘Guilty as sin’ site firms try to buy silence

Victims of a construction industry blacklist which targeted union safety activists have been awarded up to £200,000 compensation for having their working lives blighted.

The Mirror reports that so far 71 former bricklayers and carpenters have received “full and final settlements” worth £5.6m from major construction companies. Payouts averaged £80,000 each, but some were as high as £200,000 to compensate workers for years when they were denied employment because they were illegally on a secret blacklist. Many were denied work on construction sites for raising health and safety issues, trade union activity or had been branded “troublemakers.”

The construction union UCATT, which was fighting a legal battle for compensation for the workers, said the deal was a “first significant milestone” for blacklisted workers. Other cases involving hundreds of blacklisted workers are pending with the backing of the unions Unite and GMB, and the Blacklist Support Group, as well as UCATT. The defendants – Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci plc – are due in court in May.

Brian Rye, UCATT’s acting general secretary, said: “This initial tranche of compensation is the first significant milestone in the battle to win justice for blacklisted workers.”

Dave Smith of the Blacklist Support Group said many workers wanted the blacklisting firms to face the courts. He said the industry giants “know they are guilty as sin and are desperate to protect their corporate brand. But the millions they will be ordered to pay by the High Court will be dwarfed by the potential billions they could lose out on if banned from government and local authority contracts across Europe.”

He added: “By covertly targeting union safety reps, these companies appear to have given themselves a competitive advantage, as implementing proper health and safety measures on major projects has obvious financial consequences. Blacklisting is a human rights scandal but it might also be viewed as a secret cartel. I’m looking forward to the trial in May.”

Labour’s John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, commented in a statement: “The blacklisting of workers in the construction industry who raised concerns about safety is a national scandal. Those companies that caused untold suffering to thousands of honest hard working families are the unacceptable face of capitalism.

“Labour will do everything in our power to ensure that taxpayers’ money is only given to companies with the highest ethical standards by ensuring that public contracts are not awarded to companies involved in serious human rights violations.”

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Site firms ordered to release blacklisting information

A High Court judge has ordered 30 construction firms, including Sir Robert McAlpine and Balfour Beatty, to disclose all emails and correspondence linked to blacklisting of union reps and safety activists.

The ruling came at the end of a two-day hearing last week where it emerged that documents had been destroyed relating to firms’ involvement with the illegal covert blacklister, the industry-controlled and financed Consulting Association. Firms and four individuals will now have to carry out costly searches of back-up computer tapes of emails to disclose any relevant information by 12 February. The court also ruled that contractors must pay costs for the hearing, estimated at up to £100,000.

The union-backed High Court hearing is part of ongoing legal action on behalf of 168 blacklisted workers. It follows last October’s unprecedented admission of guilt by construction firms.

Howard Beckett director of legal services with the union Unite, commented: “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.” He added that the “stain of blacklisting” would not be fully removed “until there is a full public inquiry and the livelihoods of the blacklisted is restored by the firms involved giving them a permanent job.”

Dave Smith of the Blacklist Support Group, whose members are also party to the court case, said: “All of the platitudes and half apologies, all their crocodile tears and claims of rogue managers from the companies over the past six or seven years are clearly nonsense. Documents have been destroyed and directors of multinational companies are hiding stuff on their laptops.”

The former UCATT safety rep and blacklisted worker added: “It calls into question all of the promises made to Parliament and the High Court. I am not a lawyer but I would have thought that destroying evidence that would almost certainly have been used in a court case might be considered perverting the course of justice.”

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