Blacklist Support Group statement

The Blacklist Support Group raises a glass to salute the work of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee.

Blacklisted workers have put up with decades of mud slinging, excuses and outright lies from the construction firms. The Select Committee interim report, published in 16 April, cuts through all the “verbal gymnastics” and using parliamentary language both exposes the human rights conspiracy and pours scorn on the pathetic excuses of those who ran the illegal blacklist.
The so-called captains of industry are in complete denial. Even with mountains of evidence they refuse to admit their guilt. They are like the News International at the beginning of the phone hacking scandal.
Blacklisted workers applaud the Select Committee interim report but just like phone hacking, the full story of the human rights abuse by big business and undoubted police collusion will only be exposed in a full Leverson style pubic inquiry.
Anyone who bothers to look knows that blacklisting still continues today: on Crossrail the evidence is blatant.
So long as blacklisted workers are denied jobs to support our families  the weasel words of the multi-nationals are worthless. The interim report is a big step forward but the campaign for justice continues.

The Blacklist Support Group demand:

  • A full public apology
  • Compensation for blacklisted workers
  • No public contracts for blacklisting firms
  • Jobs for blacklisted workers on major projects

Extracts from the Scottish Affairs Select Committee below:

For the avoidance of doubt, we wish to make it absolutely clear that we believe, on the evidence that we have seen so far, that the process of blacklisting by a secret and unaccountable process was and is morally indefensible and that those firms and individuals involved in operating the system should have known this.
We are 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.
We firmly believe that the issue of blacklisting is an important one and requires wider scrutiny than can be pursued by specific legal actions.
It is very clear to us that the service which the Consulting Association offered was a blacklisting one: that is, subscriber companies put information into and took information out of a database, and they used the information on that database to make decisions about whether or not to employ certain individuals. We concede that the legislative framework meant this was not initially illegal, and it was a service which the Economic League had performed for many years—but by the end of TCA’s life it certainly was illegal and all those involved should have know that. We consider it unethical, and to be condemned. We do not accept the argument made in self justification that blacklisting did not occur because people were not automatically excluded from employment. This is evasive wordplay.
We find the ICO’s justification for leaving behind the vast majority of documents at TCA’s office unconvincing. We accept that the ICO was concerned that the warrant which it had obtained was limited in scope, but we regret that more documents were not seized. Even if the Consulting Association is now defunct, there remains the possibility that its activities could have been more widespread than has so far come to light. .
Another problem, demonstrated by Dave Smith’s employment tribunal against Carillion, is that employers seem to be able to evade responsibility for the employees of subcontractors. This seems, prima facie, deeply unfair. If a company discriminates against a worker on the basis of data improperly (let alone inaccurately) held, that company should be liable for any loss of earnings suffered. We recommend that the Government reviews this as a matter of urgency.

Postscript: Unions have welcomed the report

GMB general secretary Paul Kenny said: “What we see here in the plain light of day are major construction companies involved in shifty, unethical, dishonest practices for which they seem totally unable to apologise and take responsibility.”

The Unite union said the committee had “begun to shine a light on the dark side of the construction industry”.

General secretary Len McCluskey said: “Unite firmly believes blacklisting continues and the only way to eradicate this morally indefensible practice is to strengthen legislation against blacklisting to give the law real teeth.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Blacklist demo targets Skanska’s Stockholm AGM

From 3pm to 5.30pm CET, Thursday 11 April 2013
Outside Skanska AB Annual Shareholders’ Meeting at Berwhaldhallen, Dag Hammarskjölds väg 3,Östermalm, Stockholm, Sweden.

UK protesters against the construction blacklist are to target the annual general meeting of Swedish construction multinational Skanska. An 11 April demonstration, led by the union GMB and the Blacklist Support Group, aims to enlist support from the company’s shareholders and the Swedish public. Blacklisted workers will hold meetings with Swedish construction unions on 10 April.

The campaigners says despite acknowledging its role as one of the principal blacklisters of UK site workers – the firm told MPs in March it regretted its role in the scandal – Skanska has to date failed to compensate any affected workers.

Speaking ahead of the protest, GMB national officer Justin Bowden said: “Skanska appeared in front of the UK Parliamentary Select Committee into Blacklisting just last month and said how deeply they regretted their ‘inexcusable’ role in the blacklisting of 3,213 construction workers and green activists.

“From 1996/7 to 2008/9 Skanska and its predecessors spent £216,000 with blacklisting body The Consulting Association. This was second only to the £220,000 spent by McAlpine. As it cost £2.50 to check a name, Skanska checked an awful lot of names. However Skanska has refused to pay a single penny in compensation. Indeed they have said that they will fight any legal action against them.”

He added: “GMB is travelling to Stockholm to alert the Swedish people and the shareholders of Skanska of such double standards. GMB wants the managers Skanska employed to be told that the building workers and their families, whose lives they ruined, must be compensated.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Blacklisters ‘named and shamed’

The Blacklist Support Group has ‘named and shamed’ the top construction company bosses that have chaired The Consulting Association. They have also named the construction industry’s ‘main contacts’ with the illegal covert blacklister.

BSG is seeking to ‘blacklist the blacklisters’. It wants to know:

  • where are they working now?
  • are they involved in publicly funded contracts?
  • have any union reps had the misfortune of negotiating with them?

Chairs of The Consulting Association

Full list of the company Directors that chaired The Consulting Association

1993-96    Cullum McAlpine – Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd

1997-99    Tony Jennings – Laing O’Rourke

2000-01    Danny O’Sullivan – Kier

2002-03    Stephen Quant – Skanska

2004-05    Trevor Watchman – Balfour Beatty

2006-09    David Cochrane – Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd

‘Main contacts’ for The Consulting Association

Full list of Human Resources and Industrial Relations Directors who were the “main contact” between the construction companies and The Consulting Association.

Sir Robert McAlpine:  David Cochrane

Costain:  Trevor Spice, Geoff Hughes, Ken Ward

Carillion:  Liz Keates

Tarmac:  Liz Keates

Crown House: Liz Keates, Roy Hay, Dianne Hughes

Skanska:  Stephen Quart, John Dickinson

Balfour Kilpatrick:  Gerry Harvey, Elaine Galagher, Paul Raby, Arma Johnston

Balfour Beatty Major Projects:  Trevor Watchman

Balfour Beatty Construction:  Ann Cowrie

Balfour Beatty Scottish & Southern:  Vince James

Haden Young:  Carolyn Williams

Morgan Estate:  Steve McGuire

Amec: Arnold Nestler

Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Services:  John Dangerfield

HBG Construction:  Richard Bull, Paul McCreath

Kier:  Danny O’Sullivan, Kathy Aimansoor:

Vinci:  Alan Audley

Nuttall:  Bridget May

Bam Nuttall:  Pat Swift

Cleveland Bridge UK:  Lynne Day

Shepherd Engineering Services:  Lisa Stevenson

NG Bailey:  Murray Reid

CB & I: Ron Barron

Encor: Iain Coates

SIAS Building Services:  John Stoddart

Laing O’Rourke:  Liz Keates, Sylvia Smith, Lisa O’Mahoney

Rosser & Russell:  Harry Pooley

Mowlem:  Alf Lucas

Whessoe:  Roy Knight

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Different names, same blacklist

More than half of the country’s leading construction firms were still using The Consulting Association’s illegal covert blacklisting service when it was shut down in 2009, paying a £3,000-a-year subscription plus £2.20 for each blacklist check. Major firms, called to appear before an ongoing Scottish Affairs select committee inquiry into blacklisting, have admitted they used blacklisting services in the past. But they all say it is a practice they no longer support.

But we’ve been here before, reports Hazards magazine. In the 1980s, the Economic League – the blacklisting predecessor of The Consulting Association – was the subject of campaigns by grassroots groups including the Construction Safety Campaign. Employers denied then the existence of the organisation or blacklisting.

Following a parliamentary inquiry in 1990, The Economic League’s activities were exposed and in 1993 the discredited organisation shut up shop.

But it didn’t disappear entirely. Instead, two daughter organisations, TCA and Caprim Ltd, emerged, both supported by UK construction giant Sir Robert McAlpine and both headed by former employees of the Economic League. TCA specialised in surveillance of construction workers, but activists in associated industries, including rail and offshore, as well as environmental campaigners, were also in its crosshairs.

Caprim – which folded voluntarily in 2009 following the TCA closure – had different priorities, briefing firms in the agrochemical, arms and pharmaceutical industries. Clients included Monsanto, Glaxo-Smith Kline, Rhone Poulenc, Rio-Tinto and JP Morgan.

In recent months, the former heads of both blacklisters, Jack Winder at Caprim and Ian Kerr at TCA, admitted at the select committee to liaising regularly with senior police officers.

The Blacklist Support Group (BSG), formed in 2009 after TCA’s activities were exposed (Hazards 107), is spearheading legal actions to get compensation for affected workers and to get a formal investigation into the practice, including complicity by the police with illegal blacklisting organisations. Its campaign, which has gained national prominence and is now backed by the Labour Party leadership and trade unions, is ensuring the issue doesn’t go away.

BSG says recent experiences with the London Olympics and the Crossrail project – which TCA’s Ian Kerr confirmed in 2012 had used its services – mean it is not going to be taken in by a second round of assurances by the government and former blacklist users that the practice had been discontinued.

Even the industry concedes the blacklist was used on recent major projects. Following a similar admission by Balfour Beatty’s top brass, Sir Robert McAlpine director Cullum McAlpine told MPs at a hearing of the select committee on 22 January 2013 that his firm had used TCA’s services to vet Olympics site workers.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Crossrail and BFK must answer blacklisting charges

A worker on the Crossrail project who believes he was blacklisted because of his union and safety activities has won the right to challenge his sacking. London Central Employment Tribunal ruled on 27 February that both Crossrail and contractor Bam Ferrovial Kier (BFK) should appear in court to answer the allegations that Unite safety rep Frank Morris was unfairly dismissed in September 2012 from Europe’s biggest construction project.

The Scottish Affairs select committee heard last month that top BFK managers had high level links with covert blacklister The Consulting Association (TCA). In November 2012, TCA chief Ian Kerr admitted to MPs that high ranking managers involved in the Crossrail project attended TCA meetings.

Frank Morris said: “I have always felt sure that my removal from site was due to the blacklist. It has now come to light that the two top human resources (HR) managers on the project at the time of my sacking are proven blacklisters, who spent many hours at TCA meetings deciding a strategy to keep unions off of Crossrail. My sacking was part of that strategy.”

His claim was strengthened by evidence that has been uncovered during the ongoing Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation into blacklisting.

Ron Barron, the recently departed head of human resources at Crossrail, has a previous Employment Tribunal judgment against him for blacklisting and was the main contact with TCA for his previous employer, CB&I. The Blacklist Support Group has said his departure from Crossrail amounts to “an admission of wrongdoing.”

In February 2013, the Select Committee released evidence identifying Pat Swift, BFK’s current head of human resources on the Crossrail project, as the main contact between BAM Nuttall and TCA. MPs also heard that Keir’s Danny O’Sullivan is a former TCA chair.

Speaking ahead of Frank Morris’ successful tribunal hearing, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “Unite does not subscribe to the view that blacklisting in the construction industry ended when the existence of the shady blacklister The Consulting Association was finally uncovered back in 2009. There is significant evidence that blacklisting continued, even on Crossrail – Britain’s most high profile construction project.”

He added: “Frank Morris has our full support. Blacklisting is a national scandal and Unite is determined to support its members. Too many construction workers have had their lives ruined just because they had concerns over health and safety in one of Britain’s most dangerous industries or just because they belonged to a trade union.

“There needs to be a full and transparent investigation, backed by statutory powers, into all the allegations associated with the sordid spying enterprise called the Consulting Association.”

The claim is being brought under Blacklisting Regulations introduced in April 2010. The Blacklist Support Group says that although many historic blacklisting claims have lost at Employment Tribunals because the claimants were not direct employees, the new regulations do not require the claimant to be an employee. It adds the Crossrail case will be seen as a test of the robustness of the regulations.

The firms’ next court appearance will be 8 April, for a case management discussion.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Blacklisted worker wins human rights argument

WHAT A CARILLION The construction giant faces a tribunal probe into alleged human rights abuses raised by Dave Smith (left).

A blacklisted worker who was denied justice because he was an agency worker has been told his human rights may have been violated and has been granted leave to appeal. An Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) this week decided that construction giant Carillion must face human rights claims over its role in the construction industry blacklisting scandal.

Justice Singh ordered that a High Court judge should hear Dave Smith’s EAT case.

The former site engineer from Essex was repeatedly dismissed and refused work once his name appeared on the illegal blacklist after he had raised concerns about asbestos, poor toilet facilities and contaminated waste on building sites controlled by companies within the Carillion Group. An employment tribunal in January 2012 found he had been blacklisted for his activities as a trade union safety rep, but threw the case out despite accepting there had been a “genuine injustice” because he was not directly employed, but supplied through an employment agency.

At this week’s hearing, citing the findings of the original tribunal, lawyers acting for Dave Smith argued: “There can be no doubt that Articles 8 and 11 [of the European Convention on Human Rights] were engaged on the basis of the facts found by the tribunal. Covert collection of private data has been held to contravenes Article 8(1); as has dismissal causing damage to an employee’s reputation. Article 11(1) requires the State to protect ‘everyone’ effectively against discrimination for participating in trade union activity.”

Commenting after Justice Singh’s ruling, Dave Smith said: “Blacklisted workers have always argued that we have been the victims of a major human rights conspiracy. It’s time that Carillion and the other multinationals who deliberately set out to ruin our working lives to face justice. A judge has finally decided that these human rights violations need to be answered in court. This is a great decision – I am grinning like a raver.”

Invoices and salesbook entries show that Carillion paid £37,814.72 to covert blacklisting group The Consulting Association between 1999 and 2006 and its managers were still attending meetings as late as 2008.

The firm is scheduled to appear before the Scottish Affairs select committee investigation into blacklisting.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Blacklist Support Group AGM, 23 March 2013

The Blacklist Support Group’s annual general meeting, which will take place in London on 23 March, will be the “largest meeting of blacklisted workers ever assembled in one place.” The group says attendees will “discuss the ongoing campaign against the illegal construction industry blacklist in the courts, in parliament, with the unions and on sites.” Speakers include general secretaries Len McCluskey of Unite, Paul Kenny of GMB and Steve Murphy of UCATT. Also addressing the event will be labour rights expert Professor Keith Ewing and leading employment rights lawyer John Hendy QC.

Blacklist Support Group AGM, 10:30am-4:00pm, Saturday, 23 March 2013, Faraday House, 48-51 Old Gloucester Street, London, WCIN 3AE. All welcome.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Blacklisted workers tell Cable: Follow the money

DIRTY BUSINESS Business secretary Vince Cable is resisting calls for an inquiry into the blacklist, claiming he wants to see evidence it still exists. Campaigners say he should just follow the money.

Unions and campaigners have urged the government to initiate a major inquiry into blacklisting, on a par with the Leveson probe into phone hacking.
The calls for a formal inquiry came ahead of a 23 January debate in parliament, the culmination of a remarkable campaign by the grassroots Blacklist Support Group. Formed by workers blacklisted for their union and safety activities, the group has won support of unions, safety and human rights organisations. Last year it was shortlisted for a Liberty human rights campaign of the year award.
The campaign is now being supported by Labour, with shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna leading this week’s House of Commons debate. He told MPs: “I believe that what happened in the past needs to be investigated”. He said it was an “utter disgrace” none of the firms involved had apologised, adding they should “consider setting up a fund into which they could all pay, which could immediately begin to compensate those workers who were blacklisted for the immense loss they have suffered.”
Prime minister David Cameron condemned the “completely unacceptable practice.”  His business secretary Vince Cable, however, resisted calls for an inquiry. He said: “If it is actually going on, it is a serious matter and it needs investigation. I, of course, will want to see it properly investigated, but we want some evidence.”
Unions maintain there is plenty of evidence, including admissions from firms that blacklisting occurred on several recent and some ongoing projects, including the London Olympics.
The grassroots Blacklist Support Group told the business secretary to follow the money, with sharp hikes in payments from construction firms to covert blacklister The Consulting Association coinciding with recruitment drives for major, largely public-financed, jobs including the London Olympics build and the ongoing Crossrail job, Europe’s largest construction project. Crossrail this week said it rejected allegations of blacklisting.
But Sir Robert McAlpine director Cullum McAlpine followed Balfour Beatty and admitted to MPs at a 22 January select committee hearing his firm had used the services of The Consulting Association to vet Olympics site workers.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “This is a scandal on the scale of phone hacking, except it is the lives of thousands of ordinary construction workers which have been ruined. There should be a full and proper inquiry.” He added: “Lives have been ruined and families have been torn apart just because workers have raised safety concerns in Britain’s most dangerous industry or just because they exercised their human rights to belong to a trade union.”
Steve Murphy, general secretary of UCATT, said: “Balfour Beatty’s admission that blacklisting occurred on the Olympics is significant. However, this is far from the end of the story. We need a full investigation into the true level of blacklisting on the Olympics and other public projects. To find out who was involved and who knew about it. Blacklisted workers deserve the truth and they deserve justice.”
The Blacklist Support Group, the organisation that first brought the activities of covert blacklisting organisation The Consulting Association to public attention, said the cash trail confirmed major firms were blacklisting workers.
A statement from the group after the Commons debate said: “Between 2008-2009 both Skanska and Sir Robert McAlpine were each invoiced in excess of £28,000 by The Consulting Association for checking names of prospective workers against the illegal blacklist.
“These are the highest ever invoices paid by any firm subscribing to The Consulting Association blacklist. This coincides exactly with the mass recruitment stage of the Olympics project and at £2.20 per check, this equates to over 25,000 workers being checked against the blacklist by the two Olympics builders. From 2006-2009, David Cochrane, Head of Human Resources at Sir Robert McAlpine Limited, was the chairman of The Consulting Association, a post that Stephen Quant, Director of Industrial Relations for Skanska at the time of the Olympics project had previously held.
“If this was not because of the Olympics, can Sir Robert McAlpine and Skanska please inform us what other major construction jobs they were undertaking during the same period that needed so many blacklist name checks? The companies explanations are completely implausible and we look forward to when they face scrutiny in the High Court and at the parliamentary investigation into blacklisting.”
The BSG statement concluded: “Workers were sacked from the Olympics and others were denied employment because of the blacklist – there were major protests that closed down the main entrances to the project but were ignored by the mainstream media at the time. Be under no doubt, blacklisted workers intend to continue our fight for justice until these multinational firms face justice, apologise and compensate us for this systematic human rights abuse.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Blacklisting ‘criminal wretch’ to appear before MPs

Photo opportunity

Protest by blacklisted workers
1:30pm, Tuesday 27 November 2012
Outside Houses of Parliament
Westminster, London

Ian Kerr, the only person to have been convicted because of the blacklisting scandal, will be giving evidence in parliament at a Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation into blacklisting in employment on Tuesday 27 November.

Kerr was the Chief Executive of The Consulting Association, the covert blacklisting organisation that coordinated the blacklisting of trade union members. The organisation was financed and controlled by the UK’s largest construction firms, including Carillion, Balfour Beatty, Skanska, Costain, Kier, Bam and Vinci. Kerr was fined a £5,000 for a breach of the Data Protection Act in 2009.

Blacklisted workers from the Blacklist Support Group, who say their lives have been ruined by the illegal conspiracy, will pack the public gallery and protest outside parliament.

Steve Acheson, a spokesperson for the Blacklist Support Group, said: “I will be listening very carefully to the evidence given by Ian Kerr. That man has ruined my life. The secret files The Consulting Association kept on me were used to unfairly dismiss me on job after job for no more than raising genuine safety issues such as drying facilities and Weil’s Disease caused by rat urine.

“I consider Ian Kerr to be a criminal wretch but he was only the foot soldier for the Directors of multi-national construction firms. The Select Committee should demand that he names names. Who were the senior industry figures that paid his wages and orchestrated this vile conspiracy? What was the involvement of the police and corrupt trade union officials? Whether they are from big business, the state or the unions: the guilty should be brought to justice.”

Guney Clark & Ryan solicitors is currently taking a High Court claim for “tort of unlawful conspiracy” against Sir Robert McAlpine – the principal contractor on the Olympics stadium construction project – on behalf of over 100 workers from the Blacklist Support Group. The cases have a potential total value in the region of £600m.

For more info or for interviews with blacklisted workers contact:

Blacklist Support Group
Blacklist blog
BSG on facebook

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment