Building workers who claim they are being denied jobs because of an illegal blacklist have protested outside a £350m shopping development. The men believe their union activities are being used against them by firms involved in the Rock Triangle project in Bury, Greater Manchester, trade paper Contract Journal reports. They were among 3,213 workers named on an illegal database which was exposed in court last month.
Laing O’Rourke, main contractor at the site, has denied the claims. Following the 27 August protest, a spokesperson told the BBC: “We do not discriminate against any individuals for any reason in their employment and that is the clear policy across all our business units.” See BBC video clip
O’Rourke was one of more than 40 contractors which paid for access to the database of 3,213 workers run by businessman Ian Kerr, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said. He was fined £5,000 at Knutsford Crown Court in July after pleading guilty in May to breaching the Data Protection Act.
The database included names, dates of birth, national insurance numbers and details of whether an individual had any connection to trade union activity. Its operation was suspended under the data protection laws and further regulations to outlaw such secret blacklists are to be introduced later in 2009.
But local workers protesting outside the Rock Triangle project on Thursday (27 August) claimed they had been denied work on the site because of their appearance on the database. The massive development, which covers 50,000 square metres, will bring shops, restaurants and 400 apartments to the town and is due to open next summer.
Colin Trousedale, from Bury, has 35 years experience in the electrical contracting industry but has been refused a job on the site. “It’s a local site to me. I would like employment on the site and I’m being blatantly refused. I feel it is by virtue of the fact I am on the blacklist,” he said. “Because of my past as a trade union representative I am persona non grata on these sites. They just won’t allow me on the sites. How do I feed my family? How do I pay my bills? I can’t. I’m on benefits by virtue of the fact I’ve stood up and said this is wrong.”
Comment from the Blacklist Support Group
PROTEST AGAINST BLACKLISTING ON LAING O’ROURKE ROCK PROJECT:
Over 20 members of Unite the Union and their supporters came to demonstrate and unfurled their banners in their protest against the blacklist in the construction trade at the The Rock in Bury on Thursday 27th, Aug. The Rock Project is one of the biggest building jobs in the UK, if not in Europe and Laing O’Rourke is the main contractor on the site. Laing O’Rourke has also been unmasked as an affiliate of The Consulting Association run by Ian Kerr. Last month, Mr Kerr admitted in Knutsford Crown Court to managing an illegal data base or blacklist with the names of over 2,000 building workers on it. For this he was fined £5,000 + costs.
Yesterday’s demo was widely covered by the regional media and last night, BBC’s North West Tonight ran a feature on the issue. Radio Manchester and the Bury Times is also giving coverage, not to mention the Morning Star. Workers on the site took leaflets and applauded impromptu speeches from the protestors. One worker reading a protest leaflet was warned by a gaffer that if he didn’t get back to work he’d end up on the blacklist. Black humour, no doubt, but it sheds light on the degree of nervousness now prevailing on the nations building sites owing to the recent exposure of the blacklist. Yesterday, both Laing O’Rourke’s spokesmen and the subcontrator NG Baileys (another affiliate of the Kerr: Consulting Association) have denied discriminating against workers on grounds of their trade union and political membership.
After 4 hours of picketing the site some of the protestors moved to Bury Town Hall where they requested to speak with Mark Sanders, Chief Executive of Bury MBC. Mr Sanders it was claimed was ‘in a meeting’ and not available for comment. Later the Council issued a statement saying they ‘to their knowledge none of the contractors on the Bury developments were blacklisting people’.
Blacklist Support Group