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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