Blacklist protest at O’Rourke site

Building workers who claim they are being denied jobs because of an illegal blacklist have protested outside a £350m shopping development. The men believe their union activities are being used against them by firms involved in the Rock Triangle project in Bury, Greater Manchester, trade paper Contract Journal reports. They were among 3,213 workers named on an illegal database which was exposed in court last month.

 Laing O’Rourke, main contractor at the site, has denied the claims. Following the 27 August protest, a spokesperson told the BBC: “We do not discriminate against any individuals for any reason in their employment and that is the clear policy across all our business units.”  See BBC video clip

Continue reading “Blacklist protest at O’Rourke site”

Blacklisted workers demand ‘strongest legislation’

from the Blacklist Support Group:

The Blacklist Support Group (a network of building workers blacklisted in the Consulting Association scandal) has filed a submission to the consultation process for the proposed new Blacklisting Regulations.

 The full consultation closes on Tues 18th August (it is being fast-tracked, as the Regulations have been “on the books” since 1999 but were never turned into law by the Secretary of State because of intense business lobbying during a 2003 consultation process).

 John McDonnell MP (who has been championing the cause of the blacklisted construction workers in parliament) said:   

 “Only the strongest legislation will be able to protect workers from the scandal of blacklisting. That is why we are calling on the government for tough action.”
Continue reading “Blacklisted workers demand ‘strongest legislation’”

All fired up

When a private investigator was fined £5,000 for running an illegal  blacklist of over 3,000 construction workers, the real villains escaped  justice. The construction industry’s major names had bankrolled and directed The Consulting Association, which in turn told them to steer clear of union activists – particularly those like Dave Smith who had made a stand on safety.

Dave Smith believes construction sites should be safe. He’s been fired several times and has faced years of hardship for saying so. Dave is one of the 3,213 construction workers the Information Commissioner disclosed in March 2009 were listed on an illegal blacklisting database.

 He knows he was listed for safety reasons. That’s made crystal clear in the 36-page dossier bearing his name seized by the Information Commissioner in a February 2009 raid on blacklisting outfit The Consulting Association.

“Everything in my file relates to safety – page after page of concerns about asbestos, near fatal accidents, god awful toilet facilities,” Dave told Hazards. “If I discussed it with a site agent, it ended up in my file. Even my UCATT safety reps’ credentials were on the file.” Raise safety concerns and “you were sacked and then hounded out of the industry,” he said.

This wasn’t a minor inconvenience, it was a fast track to poverty. “My kids were on milk tokens. I am a qualified and experienced engineer but during one of the biggest building booms this country has ever known, with the industry crying out for skilled workers, I couldn’t get a start.”

 Read the full Hazards magazine story and Dave Smith interview.

Unions call for tougher blacklist action

Unions have called for action against unpunished blacklist users after the Information Commissioner’s Office served enforcement notices on only 14 of the subscribers to a covert blacklisting operation. The regulator said it could not take action against other 30 contractors found to have received invoices from The Consulting Association as it did not find enough evidence against them.

Alan Ritchie, general secretary of construction union UCATT, said: “While I recognise the move to issue enforcement notices on the construction companies listed, I believe straightforward prosecutions would have been a more appropriate response.”

He told trade journal Construction News: “It appears some of the worst offenders have been omitted from the ICO action, including a company that made nearly 13,000 individual checks on workers in 2008 alone. We need to remember that a number of these companies had secured hundreds of millions of pounds from publicly-procured contracts while at the same time operating a blacklist on those same sites. There must now be an additional process to bring other guilty companies to account for the misery they inflicted on thousands of construction workers and their families”.

The Consulting Association’s financial files show several of the firms escaping notices received higher bills from the blacklisting company than those served – with top contributors Skanska and Sir Robert McAlpine having no action taken against them.

Who needs a blacklist blog?

OrganiseWhen the Information Commissioner discovered a Droitwich company held a blacklist on over 3,000 construction workers, it acted promptly.

The Consulting Association was shut down, key figure Ian Kerr was prosecuted and fined £5,000, workers who believed they had been blacklisted could apply to receive their files and the government promised a new law.

 Two other things soon became apparent, though. The major construction firms that bankrolled the covert blacklisting operation on trade unionists would escape prosecution. And The Consulting Association had been operating in one guise or another for decades before Kerr faced the courts.

Hazards magazine’s ‘blacklist blog’ is tracking developments on the story – it’s a health and safety story because union health and safety activity or even concern appears to be a fast track to blacklisting, with union safety rep credentials a regular feature in blacklist dossiers.

 Hazards is also concerned that other seemingly legitimate outfits – management consultants and law firms, for example – may be providing blacklisting advice as part of “union avoidance” services. And it believes that while the emphasis has been on victimisation of trade unionists in the construction sector, blacklisting is almost certainly prevalent in other sectors.

The blacklist blog tracks legal and campaign developments – so you can see what his happening and see why it is crucial to make a stand.

Britain: Workers unite against construction blacklist

organiseA new support group for blacklisted construction workers has pledged to continue its campaign against the practice. Dave Smith, 44, who is part of the new Blacklist Support Group said: “Our agenda now is to keep this issue live, to make sure that big companies are not allowed to flout the law.”

He added: “Building workers have now agreed to set up their own support group after we met with John McDonnell in the House of Commons. Many people on the list are now taking actions and we will be putting pressure on politicians to put through new legislation so this can’t happen again.” 

Smith told the Irish Post: “This is still going on today. And if you can’t complain about the most basic rights, then there is a problem. Some people have had their lives destroyed by this blacklist and we see what we’re doing now as equality for all building workers.”

The group has also said they plan to investigate the prospects of a potential class-action civil claim and human rights cases as well as “the exposing the illegal practices of the major construction firms involved in blacklisting”.

Britain: Construction firms “owned” blacklister

The Consulting Association’s blacklisting operation, shutdown in February by the Information Commissioner for breaches of the Data Protection Act, was more organised than previously thought, according to confidential internal documents.  Its constitution shows that it was “collectively” owned by the companies which paid an annual £3,000 subscription. Private investigator Ian Kerr ran the database. He was fined £5,000 in July for breaches of the Data Protection Act. However, proceedings were not instigated against the construction companies bankrolling the association. 

 The covert blacklisting organisation  was managed by a chairman, chief executive and finance committee which met regularly. Companies wanting to join the operation had to “meet agreed criteria covering size of undertaking and management style,” The Guardian reports. One industry executive said the firms’ personnel directors gathered for annual meetings, adding: “Everybody in the industry knew about Kerr because it was long-standing. It was an open secret in the industry”. Continue reading “Britain: Construction firms “owned” blacklister”

Britain: Major construction firms face deluge of blacklisting scandal legal cases

Statement from the Blacklist Support Group

Major construction firms face deluge of blacklisting scandal legal cases

The Blacklist Support Group (a cross-union network representing blacklisted workers) issued a statement: “fullying supporting the actions of the Information Commissioner for today launching legal proceedings against 14 of the UK’s leading construction companies because of their involvement in illegal blacklisting of building workers because of their trade union membership and for raising safety concerns.”

 6 of the 14 companies are divisions of Balfour Beatty. Continue reading “Britain: Major construction firms face deluge of blacklisting scandal legal cases”