Construction firm guilty of blacklisting

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.”