The union made the submission after the three other blacklisting victims groups settled with the contractors


Union Unite, the ‘last man standing’ of four blacklisting victims groups pursuing contractors for compensation in the High Court, has succeeded in an emergency request to put back the start of the full hearing.

The hearing had been due to begin on Monday (9 May), but has now been put back until Tuesday 7 June, according to Unite.

The union, acting on behalf of around 90 workers, made the emergency submission due to its increased workload following the decision to settle by the other three blacklisting victims groups represented by Ucatt, GMB and the Blacklist Support Group.

Unite director of legal services, Howard Beckett said: “Unite applied for an adjournment at the High Court today (Wednesday 4 May) and this was granted by Lord Justice Supperstone until Tuesday 7 June.

“The reason for the application was that the four claimant teams have now become one which meant that it was impractical for the trial, estimated to take 11 weeks, to start on Monday 9 May”.

“In addition, some late disclosure has come in from the Information Commissioner’s Office and this evidence needs to be considered and evaluated by our legal team”, he added.

Unite added that it issued a witness summons last week for Sir Robert McAlpine company director Cullum McAlpine to appear in court to give evidence. The union expects him to appear in June.

The eight contractors collectively known as the Macfarlanes Defendants - Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci - have been contacted for comment on the delay and Cullum McAlpine’s witness summons.

Of the 782 claimants against the Macfarlanes Defendents hundreds have settled out of court or withdrawn their claims. Settlements are thought to have reached six figures in some cases, with the total compensation bill for contractors set to run to tens of millions of pounds.

A source close to the process said claimants were under pressure to accept settlements - known as Part 36 offers - as if these were declined and then subsequently they were awarded a lower compensation sum through the court process they could then be liable for legal costs, which the source said would “bankrupt” the claimants. But the source added: “We still see it as a very big victory”.

In a statement last Friday the Macfarlanes Defendents said they had settled with victims represented by unions Ucatt and GMB and the Blacklist Support Group.

The Macfarlanes Defendants added: “These construction companies now wish to draw a line under this matter and continue to work together with the trade unions at national, regional and site level to ensure that the modern UK construction industry provides.”

The Blacklist Support Group said: “It was the hard work and tenacity of rank & file activists that has brought [blacklisting] 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.”

GMB and Ucatt confirmed they had settled but declined to comment further.

Beckett said: “Unite has not reached any settlement although we continue to negotiate to achieve justice.

“The key question that has to be asked of the construction firms, which made an unprecedented admission of guilt last October, is why have they not yet settled?

“Unite continues to seek maximum compensation and justice on behalf of our members following those admissions.”