UNITE, THE CONSTRUCTION UNION, says it will attempt to force Cullum McAlpine, one of the key figures behind the industrial scale blacklisting of construction workers, to account for his actions in court. The legal development comes on the tenth anniversary of the uncovering of the blacklisting scandal.
Unite is taking fresh legal action on behalf of 3,123 construction workers who were blacklisted by the Consulting Association. The majority of the main construction companies in the UK used its services.
Unlike the previous court case which concluded in 2016, Unite will be seeking to ensure Cullum McAlpine, the original chairman of the Consulting Association and a director of Sir Robert McAlpine is required to give evidence in court under oath. The trial is set to begin on Tuesday 4 June and could last for six weeks.
The widespread and systematic blacklisting of construction workers was revealed following a raid on the Consulting Association’s offices by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on 23 February 2007. It was subsequently discovered that extensive blacklisting checks were occurring on the Olympic Games build project.
As a result of the 2016 court action against construction companies: Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci Plc, Unite (including construction union Ucatt which subsequently transferred into the union) secured £19.34 million for 412 blacklisted workers. The compensation was for breach of confidence/misuse of private information, breach of the Data Protection Act 1988, defamation and loss of earnings.
Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “Unite is totally committed to ensuring that the key individuals behind blacklisting workers, who ruining their lives as a result, are required to account for their crimes in the public arena of a court.
“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.”
The ICO raid was a result of the Consulting Association’s failure to register as a data controller and the organisation’s head, Ian Kerr, was subsequently fined £5,000 for data protection offences.
The companies could not be prosecuted for blacklisting workers, blacklisting was not illegal in 2007.
Since the discovery of the Consulting Association’s operations, blacklisting has not been eradicated in the construction industry. In 2017 a debate in parliament revealed how contemporary blacklisting was still occurring on major projects including Crossrail.
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail added: “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.
“That’s why Unite is still fighting for justice for those who were previously affected but is also fighting to stamp out contemporary blacklisting.”