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200 GMB Members on Blacklist

Monday, January 21, 2013

200 GMB members on construction blacklist as ICO fail to cooperate with lawyers preparing litigation for compensation.

Parliamentary debate welcome as ICO put obstacles in the way of us representing our members to get them compensation while not contacting any of the 3,213 on the list to let them know they were blacklisted says GMB.

GMB, the union for construction workers, has now found nearly 200 members on the construction industry blacklist but the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) is failing to cooperate with GMB solicitors Leigh Day who is preparing litigation to get these members compensation.

This blacklist came to light when, in 2009, the ICO seized a database, held by blacklisting body the Consulting Association, of 3,213 construction workers used by 44 companies to vet new recruits and keep out of employment trade union and health and safety activists.

After the ICO seized the database they never contacted anyone on the list to let them know they were blacklisted. By autumn 2012 only 194 of the 3,213 people on the blacklist knew three years later that they were on the list as these had contacted the ICO directly

ICO finally agreed to help us check against our own membership records to find our members on the blacklist. However the ICO is now failing to cooperate with Leigh Day who is preparing litigation to get them compensation at no cost to these members.

It is against this background that GMB welcome the Opposition Day Debate being held on Wednesday 23 January to try to force the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) to write to those blacklisted so that they can seek compensation. See notes to editors for copy of Labour party press release.

In a separate development, also in Parliament on Tuesday 22nd January (2.30pm, room 6)  , the Scottish Affairs Committee Inquiry on Blacklisting in employment will resume by taking evidence from Mr Cullum McAlpine, director Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, who chaired the blacklisting body the Consulting Association.

Justin Bowden, GMB National Officer, said “People were deprived of an honest living by these illegal tactics which blighted their families’ lives. They have been the victims of injustice over many years by multi-national companies which now seek to live off public sector contracts.

GMB welcome this move by the Labour front bench to try and force the ICO to write to those blacklisted so that they can seek compensation. The ICO should have done this more than 3 years ago.

By being obstructive and unhelpful the ICO continue to place obstacles in the way of GMB representing our members to get them justice and compensation. 

After GMB representations, the ICO finally agreed to help us check against our own membership records to find our members on the blacklist. We found nearly 200 exact matches. However the ICO is now failing to cooperate with Leigh Day, our solicitors,  preparing litigation to get them compensation at no cost to these members.

There are a further 300 GMB members who may have been on the list but we need more information to assess this. We are using the next issue of our member’s magazine to help us do this.

GMB’s priority now is to step up the campaign to get each and every GMB members blacklisted proper compensation.

GMB is also still pushing ICO for a proactive action to inform all 3,213 builders that they are on the blacklist.

GMB also welcome the Scottish Affairs Committee seeking evidence from Mr Cullum McAlpine who chaired the blacklisting body. This Committee has done a great job pulling back the curtain of secrecy to give a glimpse as to the way that employers like Carillion and others have illegally used their power and money to blacklist citizens and to deny them their rights to employment.

GMB has faced stalling and denials from the likes of Carillion. They have consistently sought to deny or play down their involvement in spite of evidence from the ICO that Carillion involvement with the Consulting Association blacklist included parts of their organization such as Crown House, Schal International, SkyBlue Employment Agency, Tarmac and John Mowlem as well as Carillion itself along with as evidence that up to 10 Carillion managers were involved in the operation of the blacklist.”

End

Contact: Justin Bowden 07710 631 351 or Maria Ludkin GMB National Officer for Legal and Corporate Affairs 07956 632 657 or GMB Press office 07921 289880 or 07974 251 823

Notes to editors

Copy of Labour Party Press release – 20th Jan 2013

Labour forces debate on preventing blacklisting of workers

Labour will call for action to stop the blacklisting of workers and a full investigation of blacklisting allegations, including in relation to major public projects such as Crossrail and the Olympic Park in a House of Commons opposition day debate next week.

Secret files on thousands of workers in the construction sector resulted in people being denied employment and their livelihoods after raising legitimate health and safety concerns or exercising their human right to belong to a trade union, and were used by more than 40 of the UK’s largest construction firms. This week, construction firm Balfour Beatty confirmed that it conducted blacklisting checks on individuals seeking work on construction of Olympic venues.

Many of those affected still have no idea that they were included on the secret construction blacklist which was uncovered by the Information Commissioner’s Office in a raid in 2009. Questions remain on why the ICO did not seize other documents found at the scene. In next week’s debate, Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna will call for the Information Commissioner to adopt a proactive process for informing individual victims of blacklisting so that they can seek compensation.

Labour’s motion asks the Government to examine whether further changes are needed to ensure that appropriate, effective sanctions are in place to tackle and prevent blacklisting.

Recent evidence which has emerged as part of a Scottish Affairs Committee Parliamentary inquiry into blacklisting in employment has brought forward allegations of widespread use of blacklists in relation to major public sector construction projects and that intelligence used to compile blacklists came from police officers and the security services, as well as revealing the existence of a further blacklist of environmental activists.

Chuka Umunna MP, Labour's Shadow Business Secretary, commenting said:

“Blacklisting is a national scandal. Workers have had their livelihoods destroyed, their reputations tarnished and in some cases their families torn apart just because they raised health and safety concerns or were a member of a trade union. And the further tragedy is that many of those affected have no idea that they have been blacklisted.

“As well as investigating blacklisting allegations in full, including those relating to public construction projects, Ministers need to look again at what changes need to be made to ensure blacklisting is prevented and that this scandal is never repeated again.”

Ends

Editor's notes:

1. Labour’s Opposition Day Debate on blacklisting will take place on Wednesday 23 January. The text of the opposition day motion is as follows:

That this House notes that in 2009 the Information Commissioner’s Office raided the Consultation Association which revealed a ‘blacklist’ and files on more than 3,000 individuals they have compiled which had been used by more than 40 construction companies to vet individuals and deny people employment for reasons including being a member of a trade union or having raised health and safety concerns and that extensive personal information on individuals and their families was held; recognises that the majority of individuals have still not been informed that they were on the blacklist nor given the opportunity to seek redress, despite recent confirmation that blacklisting checks took place on Olympic construction sites and allegations that the practice took place on public projects including Ministry of Defence sites, Portcullis House and Crossrail; further notes that at recent Scottish Affairs Select Committee hearings into blacklisting the Information Commissioner Investigations Manager raised concerns that there may have been collusion by police officers and security services in the compilation of blacklists, and in addition it was also alleged at the hearings that a blacklist of environmental activists was compiled; and calls on the Government to immediately begin an investigation into the extent blacklisting took place and may be taking place, including on public sector projects, and to ensure that appropriate and effective sanctions are in place to tackle and prevent blacklisting.

2. Coverage of the blacklisting scandal:

Building magazine, 18 January 2013, ‘Balfour Beatty admits to Olympics blacklist checks’ :

http://www.building.co.uk/news/balfour-beatty-admits-to-olympics-blacklist-checks/5048788.article

Observer, 13 January 2013, ‘McAlpine denies high court claim it had major role in 'blacklist scandal'’:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/jan/12/mcalpine-blacklist-court-claim?INTCMP=SRCH

Observer, 3 December 2012, ‘Crossrail project dragged into blacklist scandal’:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/dec/02/crossrail-blacklisting-scandal

Sunday People, 2 December 2012, ‘Thousands of construction workers were denied jobs as they were put on a sinister blacklist’:

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/blacklist-thousands-of-construction-workers-denied-1469233

Financial Times, 27 November 2012, ‘Building group faces blacklist claim’:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e2173024-38c7-11e2-981c-00144feabdc0.html

Observer, 3 March 2012, ‘Police are linked to blacklist of construction workers’:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/mar/03/police-blacklist-link-construction-workers

3. Evidence from the ongoing Scottish Affairs Committee inquiry into blacklisting in employment is here:

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/scottish-affairs-committee/Publications1/

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