Construction firms pay out £100m over 'blacklisted' workers

9 May 2016

Eight of Britain’s biggest construction companies will have to pay out an estimated £100m in compensation and legal costs to workers who say they were blacklisted from finding work over several decades.

The GMB union said it believes the total value of settlements for all union members involved is around £75m for 771 claimants, including legal costs on both sides estimated at £25m.

Construction companies involved in the settlement are Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Keir, Lang O'Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska and Vinci.

The Unite union said 256 workers it represents are set to receive more than £10m in compensation.

Unite said payouts could range from £25,000 up to £200,000 per claimant, depending on factors such as how much income they lost. 

Unite also fought more than 30 other firms that were considered part of the blacklisting conspiracy, which saw hundreds of workers lose those jobs allegedly because of their involvement in trade union activities.

But only the eight construction companies involved in the settlement have so far admitted “vetting” workers.

Unite has called for the companies involved – which despite the settlement still deny blacklisting – to be subject to a public inquiry. Companies found guilty of blacklisting employees may be prevented from bidding for public contracts. 

The GMB union said it had settled its claim involving 116 members against the construction industry for a total of £5.4m plus millions in legal costs, with some members receiving up to £200,000.

While an agreement was reached on 29 April 2016, details of the compensation could not be revealed until all claimants’ cases had been resolved.

The GMB said its blacklisted members also received a full apology from the companies involved and legal costs amounting to almost £3m.

Blacklisting came to light when in 2009 the Information Commissioner's Office seized a database of 3,213 construction workers and environmental activists.

The database was maintained by an organisation called the Consulting Association and was used by 44 companies to vet new recruits and keep out of employment trade union and health and safety activists.

It is believed the Consulting Association was set up by construction companies to exclude activists from the workforce.

The Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) and law firm GCR were also involved in the High Court battle.

An unknown number of workers chose to take much lower compensation sums from the companies involved, which initially denied all wrongdoing.

Unite director of legal services Howard Beckett said: “Unite is proud to have fought right to the end to get the maximum we believed was possible against companies that had to be dragged kicking and screaming to make unprecedented admissions of guilt last October.

“In addition to financial compensation, admissions of guilt and formal apologies, the companies have agreed, as a result of this litigation, to issue guidance to site managers to ensure blacklisting is not occurring on a local level.” 

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