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.”