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.”