A major engineering construction contractor has been found guilty by an employment tribunal of blacklisting a prominent trade unionist.
Ashford Employment Tribunal ruled that Unite member Phil Willis had been unlawfully refused employment by CB&I because he is a member of a trade union and a prominent activist. He was awarded £18,375 in damages. The case is directly linked to the seizure in 2009 by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) of a blacklist run by the Consulting Association. CB&I were subscribers to TCA and used the services of TCA extensively.
Mr Willis submitted an application to CB&I for work as a steel erector on the Isle of Grain project in 2007. Although his application was acknowledged, he was not contacted again. Following the raid by the ICO Mr Willis obtained a copy of his blacklist file which contained information about his trade union activity. He brought his case under section 137 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.
Speaking after the verdict Mr Willis said: “We are beside ourselves with delight. The judgment was absolutely damning against CB&I, so much so that it reduced us to tears. It was such a great victory for us and for all those who will eventually follow in our footsteps.”
Unite’s national officer for construction Tom Hardacre said: “It is the first successful case against a major construction company but it will not be the last. The union is currently providing legal support to a number of workers who believe they have been blacklisted.”
He added: “Unite intends to use the full force of the law to hold firms to account for systematically ruining people’s livelihoods just because a few brave men were prepared to stand up for the rights of their fellow work colleagues.”
Unite assistant general secretary Les Bayliss said: “Unite will be campaigning to strengthen the law on blacklisting to ensure employers do not even contemplate blacklisting trade union members.”
The Blacklist Support Group welcomed the landmark ruling. It added that the inclusion of £2,000 in the payout for “aggravated damages”, specifically related to the company’s involvement with The Consulting Association blacklist, was a major coup, “as aggravated damages are very rarely awarded.”
Nearly 10 months after it was confirmed by the Information Commissioner that blacklisting in the construction industry was rife, something common knowledge for decades among trade union reps in the sector, new laws outlawing the practice are in preparation and on 24 November 23 of its victims featured on the blacklist will start their tribunal cases.
But for electricians such as Colin Trousdale (above) it doesn’t mean the scandal is over. The cover story on the 21 November issue of The Guardian’s Work section reports Trousdale, 51, now has copies of his file after the ICO investigation.
The six-page document opens in 2006, shortly before he launched an unsuccessful employment tribunal claim for being blacklisted. The last entry is October 2008.
However Trousdale says that since last December he’s only had eight weeks’ work.
“I can only think that because I’ve raised health and safety concerns – and remember this is an industry in which 53 people died last year – I’m affecting profits and they don’t want me doing that,” he told the paper.
According to the government, the likes of Trousdale should get better protection from new laws due before Christmas. Draft laws have already been the subject of a consultation and do not have to be debated and once published, can be signed into law by the business secretary, Lord Mandelson.
Continue reading “Blacklisting fallout continues”
The union Unite has welcomed the High Court’s decision to reject an injunction request by power giant Scottish and Southern Electricity (SSE), aiming to stop a peaceful protest against blacklisting.
The union provided legal support for electrician Steve Acheson, who has been protesting outside SSE’s Fiddlers Ferry power station against his dismissal by site contractors and against blacklisting for over nine months.
The judge said that the application, which aimed to use provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act to justify the injunction, was “fanciful” and “almost paranoid” and noted that the Unite member’s occupation meant that he was alive to the dangers posed by power stations.
Unite assistant general secretary, Les Bayliss, said: “Scottish and Southern tried to cook up a fictional story to try to prevent a Unite member from holding a peaceful protest against blacklisting in construction outside Fiddlers Ferry power station.
“This was a blatant attack on the rights we hold dear in a democratic society and we are pleased that the judge saw right through Scottish and Southern’s bogus arguments.”
The judge dismissed the application and ordered SSE to pay Mr Acheson’s costs.
The glittering list of contractors accused of using a ‘construction blacklist’ to vet potential employees are bracing themselves for the legal and political fallout. Unions UCATT and Unite are both seeking legal advice on suing some of the 45 contractors named in the list, while Labour MP Michael Clapham has tabled an Early Day Motion deploring the existence of the list.
ICO news release [pdf] • briefing on the Consulting Association and related ICO enforcement notice [pdf] • Construction News • The Guardian and related story and audio report • BBC News Online • Contract Journal and related story • Financial Times • The Times • The Telegraph • Risks 397 • 14 March 2009