Carillion apologises for blacklisting – then chases blacklisted worker for legal costs

Troubled construction giant Carillion has been branded a hypocrite after claiming thousands of pounds of legal costs from a blacklisted worker only days after issuing an unreserved apology in the High Court.

Carillion is one of the eight multinational building contractors that this month issued “a full and unreserved apology” for their role in blacklisting of union members in the construction industry, claiming to “recognise and regret the impact it had on employment opportunities for those workers affected and for any distress and anxiety it caused to them and their families”.

The submission to the High Court on behalf of Carillion, Balfour Beatty, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci,  accepted that construction companies had provided much the information used by the covert blacklister The Consulting Association and had used it to vet workers seeking employment.

The statement went as far as stating “ever since the closure of The Consulting Association in 2009, we have been focused on trying to do the right thing by affected workers”.

Yet only days after the apology, lawyers Clarkslegal acting on behalf of Carillion submitted a claim for £3,500 worth of legal costs against blacklisted worker Dave Smith. The legal costs relate to a submission made by Carillion arguing that Smith should not be allowed to have his blacklisting claim heard in the UK Supreme Court and include charges of £600 for one hour’s work from John Bowers QC.

Smith’s legal test-case generated considerable publicity after the company admitted that their senior managers had supplied information to the notorious Consulting Association blacklist about the engineer because of his trade union activities after he had raised concerns about health and safety on a number of their projects.

The original employment tribunal was even told the name of the senior manager who provided the information: John Ball, former head of industrial relations for Carillion based at their Wolverhampton head office. Ball had previously held the same role for Tarmac in the very same office before the company name change and in his official capacity was one of the founding members of the Consulting Association.

Yet Smith still lost his test-case because as an agency worker he was not protected by UK employment law, which only covers direct employees.  Smith requested to have his case heard at the Supreme Court but this was refused and Carillion is claiming their legal costs for sending a written submission on this issue. Carillion have previously claimed £7,500 from the blacklisted agency worker after the Court of Appeal hearing.

Declan Owens, solicitor representing Dave Smith, commented: “The legal team were surprised that Carillion pursued Dave Smith for the costs of the Supreme Court application. Nevertheless, they have always been aware of the restrictive interpretation of the British courts when they consider the nature of the employment relationship between agency workers and employers. Therefore, they are confident that an application to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg alleging a failure of the UK government to uphold Mr Smith’s right to privacy and his freedom of association under Articles 8 and 11 European Convention on Human Rights will succeed and vindicate him for the injustice he has suffered through blacklisting by Carillion”. 

In a move seemingly at odds with its ‘unreserved apology’, Carillion has posted a carefully worded section on their website that singles out Dave Smith and accuses him of be involved in “unlawful” activities – although absolutely no evidence is presented for this and no action was taken by either the police or Carillion at the time.

Dave Smith commented: “How much is a blacklisting apology from Carillion worth? They have admitted their guilt to the High Court for their involvement in blacklisting in general. They have told an employment tribunal which of their managers added information to my blacklist file. They continue to make completely unsubstantiated accusations about me using all the resources available to them as a multinational corporation. 

“I am an ex-construction worker who tried to improve safety on building sites but was forced to leave the industry because of their managers’ active involvement in blacklisting. Their apology isn’t worth the paper it is printed on. I hope public authorities around the world ban them and the other blacklisting wretches from all public contracts for their human right violations. 

“Carillion claim to want to do the right thing. Over the years, these people have sacked me, blacklisted me, fought me in the courts and bad mouthed me on their corporate website all because I tried to improve safety for my fellow workers. But now I have to pay over 3 grand for the privilege. That’s some apology! 

“I have no intention of paying a penny towards the legal costs of these money grabbing hypocrites. If they want their blood money, they will have to come after it.”

In the test-case Smith v Carillion (JM) Ltd, Dave Smith was represented by John Hendy QC, David Renton (counsel) and Declan Owens (solicitor) via the Free Representation Unit.

The next hearings for the High Court blacklisting group litigation is December 7-8th 2015. The full trial is still scheduled to last 10 weeks starting in May 2016.

In recent weeks, there have been major protests disrupting city centre rush hour traffic against Carillion in Liverpool due to claims of ongoing blacklisting at the Royal Liverpool Hospital.

  • Dave Smith is the secretary of the Blacklist Support Group, author of the book Blacklisted: the secret war between big business and union activists. Last week he gave evidence to MPs at the committee stage of the Trade Union Bill warning about the possibility of a state sponsored blacklist, alongside Amnesty International and Liberty.
  • Blacklisted: the secret war between big business and trade union activists, New Internationalist, March 2015. ISBN 978-1-78026-257-4. eBook ISBN: 978-1-78026-258-1. £9.99