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.

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