Unite says it will sue on behalf of workers who have appeared on the blacklist held by the Consulting Association
Officials at construction union Unite has vowed to sue building firms who have used a “vetting” list to approve construction workers on behalf of aggrieved workers.
In addition several workers who claim they are on the blacklist of construction workers seized on Monday, have told Building they will seek legal action against the firms named. The news follows the raid by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on Monday on the offices of the Consulting Association, which was paid by 40 major builders for a list of 3,213 ‘troublesome’ workers.
The ICO is to prosecute the director of the Consulting Association, Ian Kerr, but has played down the possibility of prosecuting the building firms, saying it would at first send out enforcement notices forcing them to stop using the list.
However, Unite branch official, Steve Acheson, who has had three tribunals in eight years for unfair dismissals and says he is convinced he is on the blacklist, confirmed the union would take legal action “without a doubt”.
“We have to take a stand against them,” he said. “My family has suffered terribly as a result of me being out of work, and I know others are the same. They cannot be allowed to get away with this.”
Colin Trousdale, 50, an electrician, has been in the industry for 35 years, and believes he has been on the list for as long as 15 years.
He claims he may have lost up to six years worth of work as a result, and said he would definitely seek legal action against the firms.
“I’m convinced I have lost a lot of work because of that list. I’m going to write to my MP to find out if my names is on there, under the Freedom of Information Act, and then I’ll be looking to take someone to court over it,” he said.
Tony Jones, 42, previously worked on the Jubilee line and also believes he is on the blacklist. He said he would seek legal action for loss of work.
“I’ll take them to court,” he said. “Whether it’s Kerr or one of my former employers – whoever put me on that list – I want justice.”
John Armstrong, partner at law firm CMS Cameron McKenna said the firms could face potentially unlimited claims if they were proved to have behaved in a discriminatory manner against workers on the list. He said: “If someone believes they’ve been unfairly dismissed or overlooked for work then they can bring an action, certainly. It becomes a discriminatory matter.”
People who believe they have been blacklisted are also entitled under data protection legislation to demand any information that has been held about them by the contractors. They may also sue for defamation if the information held is untrue or libelous.
Firms on the list include many household name contractors including Balfour Beatty, Costain, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine and Skanska. Union officials suspect part of the blacklist dates from industrial action that surrounded a number of major construction sites in the 1990s, including the building of the Jubilee Line, the redevelopment of the Royal Opera House and the construction of the Millennium Dome.