The Consulting Association’s blacklisting operation, shutdown in February by the Information Commissioner for breaches of the Data Protection Act, was more organised than previously thought, according to confidential internal documents. Its constitution shows that it was “collectively” owned by the companies which paid an annual £3,000 subscription. Private investigator Ian Kerr ran the database. He was fined £5,000 in July for breaches of the Data Protection Act. However, proceedings were not instigated against the construction companies bankrolling the association.
The covert blacklisting organisation was managed by a chairman, chief executive and finance committee which met regularly. Companies wanting to join the operation had to “meet agreed criteria covering size of undertaking and management style,” The Guardian reports. One industry executive said the firms’ personnel directors gathered for annual meetings, adding: “Everybody in the industry knew about Kerr because it was long-standing. It was an open secret in the industry”.
This mirrors the structure of the Economic League, a construction industry blacklisting organisation which ceased operation in the late 1980s after its activities were exposed. It is known Kerr worked for this organisation, and it is believed he started The Consulting Association with records taken from Economic League files.
The information commissioner found invoices from 40 firms when Kerr’s office was raided in February. However, he did not take legal action against some of these firms as he did not have enough evidence. It is understood that some firms only communicated orally with Kerr, leaving no written record of any information they used from the database. Other firms had gone out of business.
Records obtained in the Information Commissioner’s raid revealed thick files on some trades unionists, including union safety accreditisation and details of trade union reps raising safety concerns on site. Advice was also included on how to block union safety activities or get rid of workers.