Construction Blacklist in the UK – Companies forced to own up and pay up

On 29 April 2016, press releases were issued by construction firms and unions involved in the High Court trial on blacklisting of union members in the UK. The press releases announced that blacklisted workers represented by the GMB and UCATT have settled their claims. However, despite these settlements, the High Court trial is still continuing with blacklisted workers represented by UNITE the Union. The estimated level of compensation for all the claims settled to date is in the region of £50m.

Steve Acheson, a blacklisted electrician from Manchester, and chair of the Blacklist Support Group commented: "For more than 40 years, they were blacklisting us with impunity. Seven years ago when the files were discovered these firms denied everything and offered us nothing. Two years ago, their misnamed compensation scheme offered most people £1,000. These wretches have now been forced to pay out millions in compensation, as well as legal bills for four sets of lawyers. That's a big kick in the profit margin.”

“It was the hard work and tenacity of rank and file activists that has brought this human rights abuse conspiracy into the political discourse. What has already been achieved is a massive victory for the trade union movement but the fight is not over yet. Blacklisted workers may have won compensation but this is a long way from justice.”

“The construction firms may 'wish to draw a line under this matter' but for blacklisted workers this is still unfinished business. Until such time that the full conspiracy is exposed and those responsible for the human rights abuse are called to account in a court of law, we will never stop fighting" said Acheson.

The claims were brought against Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and VINCI, who all paid for and used the blacklisting services provided by the Consulting Association.

The litigation arose after the activities of the Consulting Association were revealed in a raid by the Information Commissioner in February 2009. In October 2015, these construction companies finally openly acknowledged that the system was unlawful and made a full public apology, which was widely reported at the time.

There remains outstanding litigation between the construction companies and other blacklisted workers, with the High Court trial due to start on 9 May 2016.