This is the second settlement to be reached in litigation brought against the blacklisters, following a 2016 court action that secured £19.34m for 412 blacklisted workers.
The seven companies – Balfour Beatty, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci – have all acknowledged their criminal misdeeds, conspiring to run the Consulting Association as a vetting database to ensure subversives and undesirables stay off their payroll. There was an eighth member of the group, Carillion, but it has now been liquidated.
The Consulting Association was closed down by the Information Commissioner in 2009 after it was exposed.
The settlement was announced today by the union Unite, representing the blacklisted workers, along with solicitors Thompsons and OH Parsons.
The seven remaining companies have also agreed to pay £230,000 for a fund to be used by Unite for the training of those affected by the secret vetting system and to provide educational and training support to individuals working on UK construction sites.
The defendants have also agreed to pay Unite’s legal fees.
However, the settlement means that Unite did not get its wish to see Cullum McAlpine in the witness box, for which it had been pressing. He is regarded as a chief architect of the blacklisting; he was founder chairman of the Consulting Association, which grew out of the ashes of the Economic League in 1993. In 2013 Cullum McAlpine appeared before a House of Commons committee, where he admitted his involvement but denied that either he or his family firm, Sir Robert McAlpine, was an instigator or prime mover of the blacklisting. [See our previous report: McAlpine admits extensive use of blacklist.]
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “This is a historic agreement which provides some degree of justice to a further group of construction workers who had their working lives needlessly ruined by blacklisting construction companies.
“The creation of a training fund controlled by Unite is a huge breakthrough, and is to be welcomed, as it will allow the union to assist victims of blacklisting return to employment.
“The refusal of Cullum McAlpine to give evidence is bitterly disappointing.
“Unite remains utterly committed to ensuring that those guilty of ruining workers’ lives should be forced to account for their actions. This is why it is absolutely essential that a full public inquiry into blacklisting is imperative.
“The Labour party is committed to holding a public inquiry into blacklisting and it is to their deep shame that the Conservative government, many of whose friends were key players in the blacklisting scandal, has refused to act.
“The blacklisting construction companies promised public statement is welcome about their future good behaviour and a new relationship with unions, but these words must be followed up by genuine actions. If they are serious, they must provide genuine unrestricted access to their sites and workforces, end the practice of moving union activists from one job to another to disrupt union organisation, end the reliance on agency labour and end the scandal of bogus self-employment.”
In a joint statement, the contractors said: “Despite many organisations subscribing to the Consulting Association, only eight companies – Balfour Beatty, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK, Vinci and Carillion – have been instrumental in addressing the issue and the impact it has had on the lives of affected workers.
“The eight companies have admitted their involvement with the Consulting Association and have issued a full public apology. This apology was accepted and acknowledged as genuine by the unions and other groups representing affected workers. The group has worked hard to make financial settlements for claims from affected workers. It is pleased that the agreement announced today means that these workers will receive compensation without the need for a lengthy trial.
“The group is committed to ensuring that blacklisting can never affect the construction industry again. Each company has implemented stringent and transparent HR practices and policies within their own operations and throughout their supply chains, and they are working together to ensure that the modern UK construction industry provides the highest standards of employment and HR practice for its workforce.”