Union gives more details over latest bout of legal action

Unite has spelt out more details over why it has reignited legal action on blacklisting, claiming that the practice is still going on in the industry.

The union said it had evidence that some of its members were still being blocked from working on certain building sites across the country.

In a statement, the union said it had uncovered “several recent cases of contemporary blacklisting”, although it gave no further details.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said its allegations demonstrated why “urgent action was needed to end blacklisting once and for all”.

She added: “It is simply outrageous that companies who have been caught blacklisting and have ruined the lives of construction workers, have escaped virtually scot free and continue to be rewarded with public sector contracts.”

In October, dozens of Labour MPs signed an early day motion calling for Sir Robert McAlpine to be dropped from the work to refurbish Big Ben because of its links to blacklisting.

Among those signing were former deputy leader of the Labour party Harriet Harman and former shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna.

But the Olympic stadium builder said the issue of blacklisting was “firmly in the past” and this week again repeated the practice had been consigned to the history books.

In statement, the firm said: “There is no blacklisting at Sir Robert McAlpine. We have a zero-tolerance policy towards blacklisting, illegal or unfair recruitment practices and we expect all our sub-contractors to comply with this.

“In addition to the steps we have taken internally to ensure zero abuses of employment rights, we have introduced a rigorous audit of our sub-contractors to ensure they all fully comply with our HR policies. Organisations in breach of any of our policies are immediately removed from our supply chain.”

Unite has singled out McAlpine in its latest round of action claiming that David Cochrane, a former head of its HR team, and director Callum McAlpine were among four individuals who held the chairman’s role of the Consulting Association – the shadowy organisation which the construction industry used to monitor more than 3,000 building workers and which ran for 16 years until the blacklisting scandal was exposed in 2009.

The union says it has begun claims for unlawful conspiracy against the four and added that its latest action is part of a wider case being brought by the union on behalf of over 70 construction workers who were blacklisted by the Consulting Association.

The union said the latest cases are for breach of privacy, defamation and for Data Protection Act offences and added that it was taking action against a dozen contractors which included McAlpine, along with Balfour Beatty and Carillion who both declined to comment.

Unite, which said it will be lobbying parliament on the issue tomorrow, has already taken High Court action against the companies involved in the Consulting Association.

The initial court action was completed in 2016 and resulted in hundreds of workers receiving millions of pounds in compensation.

The full list of contractors Unite is taking action against is: Sir Robert McAlpine; Skanska UK; Laing Limited; John Laing Construction; Kier; Balfour Beatty Kilpatrick; Balfour Beatty Construction; Crown House Technologies; Costain Building & Civil Engineering; Costain; Costain Oil Gas & Process, and Carillion Construction.