Legal claim alleges contractor warned it would struggle to win major jobs if Cullum McAlpine’s role became public

Royal Courts of Justice

Source: Mwanasimba

Alleged victims of construction industry blacklisting have lodged a multi-million pound claim against Sir Robert McAlpine in the High Court.

The claim – which is being disputed by Sir Robert McAlpine – alleges that the contractor “took a central role” in the establishment and operation of blacklisting organisation the Consulting Association (TCA), which worked on behalf of more than 40 construction firms and was closed down by data protection watchdog the Information Commissioner’s Office in 2009.

Executives at Sir Robert McAlpine including director and member of its founding family Cullum McAlpine, were “intimately involved” in the “clandestine” operation of TCA, the claim said.

This included Cullum McAlpine offering Ian Kerr, the former chief officer of TCA who died suddenly last month, the post and arranging his pay and conditions.

It stated: “Mr McAlpine was the founding Chairman at the organisation’s inception in 1993. He was intimately involved in the foundation and operation of the Consulting Association. He formally offered Mr Kerr the position of Director in August 1993.

“He finalised the written particulars of Mr Kerr’s employment, sending them to members for approval and obtaining legal advice in relation to them. He oversaw the arrangement of life and health insurance for Mr Kerr as part of his remuneration.

The claim also said that following the exposure of TCA, Kerr was warned Sir Robert McAlpine might “encounter serious difficulty in obtaining major construction contracts” should Cullum McAlpine’s name become public.

And it alleged that TCA’s final chairman was former head of HR at Sir Robert McAlpine, David Cochrane, adding that Cochrane “gave instructions” to Kerr following the exposure of TCA and organised various payments including the redundancy payment to Kerr’s wife who also worked at TCA.

A Sir Robert McAlpine spokesperson said: “Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd has never operated a ‘blacklist’.  We are, and have always been, wholly committed to maintaining good relationships with our workforce and to responsible trade unionism.  

“The Consulting Association (TCA) was established by a large group of construction companies.  All  the member companies contributed to, and accessed information from, the TCA from time to time.  Directors and representatives of a number of major construction firms chaired TCA over the years.  These include Mr Cullum McAlpine who was chairman for a period in the early 1990s.  

“While Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd has no knowledge of conversations between The Consulting Association and its last chairman, we categorically deny that any payments made to Mr Kerr were in any way linked to his taking responsibility or protecting Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd or any member of The Consulting Association. 

“Due to the on-going legal action, we are not in a position to provide any further detail at this stage.”