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Mon September 23 2019

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MPs slam blacklist compensation scheme

27 Mar 15 The eight contractors that set up The Construction Workers Compensation Scheme have been labelled “callous and manipulative” by MPs.

Eight major construction companies set up The Construction Workers Compensation Scheme (TCWCS) in 2014 to provide compensation for construction workers whose lives they had ruined by effectively blacklisting them from working in the construction industry.

TCWCS claimed it had the support of unions and was a genuine attempt to atone for sins. However, members of parliament on the Scottish Affairs Committee said that it was just a damage-limitation exercise in a bid to head of legal action.

In its final report into the construction industry’s blacklisting scandal, published today*, the committee says identifies a series of flaws in the scheme, including:

  • it was launched without the agreement of the trade unions (and its launch publicity attempted to mask that fact)
  • the low levels of compensation being offered
  • the fact that those participating in current High Court litigation are not eligible to access the scheme
  • the scheme’s failure to incorporate any type of positive action measures to upskill and re-employ the victims of blacklisting.

Committee chair Ian Davidson MP said: "The unilateral introduction of a compensation scheme was an act of bad faith by those involved, likely to be motivated by a desire to minimise financial and reputational damage rather than being a genuine attempt to address the crimes of the past.

“To mislead MPs is a serious issue but to mislead blacklisted workers and their families by implying that the trade unions were in agreement with the scheme is both callous and manipulative.”

The “callous and manipulative” contractors behind TCWCS are: Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci.

They were advised by law firm Pinsents Masons and public relations firm Grayling.

Mr Davidson continued: “While we are highly critical of the scheme and the way it was introduced, at least those eight companies have made even this effort. We do not accept the excuses made from the other companies for their non-participation and interpret this as evidence of their unwillingness to self-cleanse.

“Despite the grave flaws in the scheme, our main concern is that the victims of blacklisting receive at least some measure of compensation. The ICO should redouble its efforts to find and contact as many of the individuals whose names who were on the original TCA list as possible–including the families of those blacklisted workers who may have passed away.

“Given the denial and duplicitous practices we have encountered on the part of many of the companies who were complicit in blacklisting, we have no confidence in the sector to either self-cleanse on a voluntary basis nor to take sufficiently robust steps to eradicate the practice of blacklisting in the future. A voluntary code of conduct for pre-employment vetting in the construction company will not be sufficient. We must have a statutory code of practice with those firms who have refused to self-cleanse being banned from all contracts funded, in whole or in part, by public money.

“Despite the progress and positive steps which have been taken during the course of our inquiry, in this final report we have identified that many questions in relation to the practice of blacklisting remain unanswered, including the recent allegations in relation to police and security service involvement in blacklisting in the construction and other sectors.

“We are specifically concerned as to whether the extent and breadth of the practice is fully known, and whether this odious practice is ongoing within the construction industry. We are convinced that the only way to fully answer these questions is through a full public inquiry and we recommend that the government take immediate steps to launch one."

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Trades unions welcomed the committee’s report.

GMB national officer Justin Bowden said: "This excellent report is to be welcomed for two key reasons: first, the fact that its very strong recommendations are made on a cross political party basis; second, the clear way it reflects how sick to death the MP's of all parties and everyone else is of the construction companies and their arrogant, bully boy attitude.

“The construction companies actions towards those they blacklisted since they got caught shows that they believe they did nothing wrong, membership of the Consulting Association shows how they believed that they were above the law and their attitude towards MP's shows that they believe they are above Parliament.

“Strip away the weasel words and crocodile tears from the blacklisting companies and their highly-paid entourage of spin doctors and lawyers and the simple truth is that MPs of all political parties involved in the Inquiry into Blacklisting in Employment do not trust the companies to eradicate blacklisting and do not believe they have, or will self-cleanse. The only way the questions posed by the Scottish Affairs Committee will get answered is from a full public inquiry."

Ucatt general secretary Steve Murphy said: “The Scottish Affairs select committee has condemned the counterfeit compensation scheme in the strongest possible terms. The scheme has no credibility and workers who have had their lives ruined have seen that TCWCS is simply a cheap way to gag them and deny them justice.

“Every week there are more grubby revelations about the involvement of the state in blacklisting. The only way we are going to get the truth is through a full public inquiry. This puts fresh pressure on the government to launch a public inquiry so workers and their families whose lives were ruined can learn the full truth once and for all.

“The work of the Scottish Affairs Committee and its Chair Ian Davidson MP in exposing blacklisting has been absolutely invaluable. Without the committee’s hard work, diligence and perseverance, the recent strides in unmasking the blacklisters and the slow battle to make them pay for their actions would have been impossible.”

Blacklisting came to light in 2009 the Information Commissioner’s Officer seized The Consulting Association (TCA) database of 3,213 construction workers and environmental activists used by 44 companies to vet new recruits and keep out of employment trade union and health and safety activists. It was later established that The Consulting Association was initiated and funded by major construction companies as a successor organisation to the previous Economic League.

The eight construction companies had initially sought support from the unions over the compensation scheme last year but negotiations broke down over the amount of money being put up, which amounted to less than 2% of their combined profits. The companies went ahead with TCWCS unilaterally but claimed they had union support.

The Scottish Affiars Committee's report Blacklisting in Employment: Final Report can be seen at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmscotaf/272/27202.htm

Since this item was posted, we have received a response from TCWCS. See it here... [link opens in new tab]

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