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Union launches legal action against blacklisters

20 Nov 13 On a day of protest demonstrations, the Ucatt union has announced that it has begun legal proceedings against many of the companies involved in blacklisting construction workers.

The Trades Union Congress is holding an anti-blacklisting day of action today (20th November), to protest against blacklisting and call for a public inquiry. There will be a lobby of Parliament and protests are planned at numerous major sites across the country, including Laing O'Rourke’s Alderhey Hospital site in Liverpool, Sir Robert McAlpine’s Admiral Insurance construction site in Cardiff, Laing O'Rourke’s Cheesegrater and Francis Crick Medical Research Centre sites in London.

Ucatt is bringing legal action on behalf of members who were blacklisted. The union is citing the misuse of private information and breach of confidence due to the personal information that was contained in their files. It has employed the services of Mark Warby QC, a specialist in privacy law, to take the cases on behalf of its members.

The companies that Ucatt is taking action against include: Balfour Beatty, Bam, CB&I, Costain, Carillion, Laing O’Rourke, Lend Lease, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska and Vinci.

Ucatt also says that it is also taking legal action against a specific individual, which it declined to name yet, saying only that he “held the position of chair of the Consulting Association and was a senior HR manager for a major blacklisting company”, which rather narrows it down.

The Consulting Association was the organisation that set up and managed the database of union and environmental activists deemed to be undesirable by the 44 companies that used the service.  

The Consulting Association was raided by the Information Commissioner in 2009 and closed down for breaching data protection law.

Most of the main sponsors of the blacklist have set up a compensation scheme for those affected, with payouts expected to range between £1,000 and £100,000 for those of the 3,213 blacklisted workers that can be traced.

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The TUC and construction unions are calling for a full public inquiry into the scandal.

Ucatt general secretary Steve Murphy said: “Blacklisting companies wilfully destroyed the lives of ordinary construction workers and acted as though they were above the law. Our legal action will ensure that the victims receive the justice they deserve.”

To mark the TUC’s day of action against blacklisting today, Ucatt is specifically targeting Sir Robert McAlpine, the company that Ucatt says was “most closely involved with the Consulting Association”. They provided the first and last chairman; they paid the Consulting Association’s winding up costs; and in the Consulting Association’s final year of operation, they were the second highest user of its blacklisting service spending £26,842.20.

Cullum McAlpine admitted his role as founder chairman of the Consulting Association in January this year when he appeared before the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, which has been investigating the affair. Cullum McAlpine was chairman for the first four years and his HR director David Cochrane was chairman for the last four years of the organisation’s 17-year existence.

Despite its leading role in the Consulting Association blacklist, Sir Robert McAlpine was not prosecuted by the Information Commissioner’s Office and was not served with an enforcement notice.

Ucatt said that it will be leading demonstrations at Sir Robert McAlpine’s premises in Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Hemel Hempstead, London, Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle.

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