A construction boss who played a pivotal role in orchestrating a blacklisting scandal that targeted union safety activists will face the courts, the union Unite has pledged.
The union said it “is closing in” on Cullum McAlpine who it wants to account for his actions in court. Unite is taking fresh legal action on behalf of workers who were blacklisted by the Consulting Association. Most of the major construction companies in the UK used its services.
Unlike the previous court case which concluded in 2016, Unite says it will be seeking to ensure Cullum McAlpine, the original chair of the Consulting Association and a director of UK construction giant Sir Robert McAlpine, is required to give evidence in court under oath. The trial is set to begin on 4 June and could last for six weeks.
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “Unite is totally committed to ensuring that the key individuals behind blacklisting workers and ruining their lives as a result are required to account for their crimes in the public arena of a court.”
He added: “This is the minimum that the affected workers deserve. They need to see those responsible in the dock and finally forced to account for their actions. The forthcoming court case will finally ensure this will happen.”
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “There remain employers in construction and other industries who continue to believe it is somehow acceptable to engage in the disgusting and deceitful practice of blacklisting, to ruin people’s lives.
“We are seeing blacklisting ‘outsourced’ to labour suppliers at the beck and call of large firms and acting as unaccountable instigators of union busting. That’s why Unite is still fighting for justice for those who were previously affected but is also fighting to stamp out contemporary blacklisting.”
The Crossrail project could face industrial action over the firing of a well-regarded union safety activist. The looming dispute centres around Birmingham electrician Martin Overy, a former Unite safety rep who was dismissed last week only five hours after signing his contract with the electrical contractor Site Operative Solutions Limited (SOS) at Paddington station.
Overy features on the notorious Consulting Association blacklist and in 2016 was awarded damages in the major blacklisting trial at the High Court which saw eight construction giants agree a massive compensation payout. However, the skilled electrician reports that he has struggled to find and stay in employment.
Paddington station is under the control of the Swedish multinational Skanska, one of the defendants in the High Court litigation. It has publicly apologised for its role in the blacklisting scandal.
But the union-supported Blacklist Support Group (BSG) says the company has since been accused repeatedly of involvement in “contemporary ongoing blacklisting after FOI requests highlighted emails that showed union members were being kept under surveillance.”
BSG says the Crossrail project has been dogged by claims of blacklisting. A parliamentary select committee was told that Frank Morris, a UNITE shop steward, was dismissed from the project after his name appeared in a list of ‘troublemakers’.
Roy Bentham, the BSG joint secretary and a Unite executive council member commented: “In an industry with such an appalling fatality record, workers who are prepared to raise concerns about safety should be valued but instead the treatment of Martin Overy seems a blatant case of blacklisting.
“Both Crossrail and Skanska have got form on blacklisting and we’re not going to sit back and let this happen again. If Martin isn’t reinstated, rank and file industrial action is unstoppable.”