Leading m&e contractors such as NG Bailey, Haden Young and Emcor paid annual fee to obtain sensitive data
More than 40 construction companies, including leading m&e firms, have been accused of covertly purchasing personal data about potential employees.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has revealed that a raid on premises in Droitwich uncovered a blacklist containing sensitive information on 3213 workers. Construction firms would use the list to vet potential workers, with data including details of trade union activity and general employment history.
Ian Kerr, the owner of a firm known as the Consulting Association, appears to have run the database for over 15 years. The ICO has uncovered evidence at Kerr’s premises that named construction firms subscribed to Kerr’s system for a £3000 annual fee. Companies could add information to the system and pay £2.20 for details held on individuals. Invoices to construction firms for up to £7500 were also seized.
Unite Amicus national officer Tom Hardacre said: “We’ve been aware for many, many years of the possibility that this information exists and that the employers have it at their disposal.
“Whilst I’m sorry that these companies operate in such a way, I’m very glad to see that what has been suggested by the trade unions has now confirmed in this report.”
The ICO has served an enforcement notice ordering Kerr to stop using the system. Kerr is to cease trading by the end of this week and he now faces prosecution by the ICO for breaching the Data Protection Act.
Deputy Information Commissioner David Smith said: “This is a serious breach of the Data Protection Act. Not only was personal information held on individuals without their knowledge or consent but the very existence of the database was repeatedly denied.”
Smith added: “The Data Protection Act clearly states that organisations must be open about how they process personal information, and in most cases those processing personal information must register with the ICO – Mr Kerr did not comply with the law on either count.”
Hardacre commented: “We’ve heard past debates in the House of Commons that really haven’t manifested themselves – to the extent that there hasn’t been a great deal done about this issue. We’ll be pressing the government to introduce strong legislation that punishes companies that act in this way.”
A representative from one of the accused firms, NG Bailey, said: "The company is taking these claims very seriously and an immediate and thorough investigation into the matter has been launched."
From 16 March, the ICO will operate an enquiry system for people who believe personal information about them may be held on the database.
The list below identifies the companies which subscribed to the Consulting Association. The use of brackets indicates where companies have undergone a change of name or where subsidiaries have been absorbed by parent companies. Ex members may no longer exist or no longer avail themselves of Kerr’s service.
Amec Building Ltd
Amec Construction Ltd
Amec Facilities Ltd
Amec Ind Div
Amec Process & Energy Ltd
Amey Construction – Ex Member
B Sunley & Sons – Ex Member
Ballast (Wiltshire) PLc – Ex Member
Bam Construction (HBC Construction)
Bam Nuttall (Edmund Nutall Ltd)
C B & I
Cleveland Bridge UK Ltd
Costain UK Ltd
Crown House Technologies
Diamond M & E Services
Dudley Bower & Co Ltd – Ex Member
Emcor (Drake & Scull) - ‘Ex Ref’
G Wimpey Ltd – Ex Member
John Mowlem Ltd -Ex Member
Laing O’Rourk (Laing Ltd)
Lovell Construction (UK) Ltd – Ex Member
Miller Construction Limited – Ex Member
Morrison Construction Group –Ex Member
N G Bailey
Shepherd Engineering Services
Sias Building Services
Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd
SPIE (Matthew Hall) - Ex Member
Taylor Woodrow Construction Ltd – Ex Member
Turriff Construction Ltd –Ex Member
Tysons Contractors – Ex Member
Walter Llewellyn & Sons Ltd - Ex Member
Whessoe Oil & Gas
Willmott Dixon – Ex Member
Vinci PLC (Norwest Holst Group)
Electrical and Mechanical Contractor