Construction companies who blacklisted workers are being forced to spend potentially millions of pounds raking through back-up tapes of destroyed documents.
The companies who blacklisted at least 3,213 workers using the sinister and Orwellian Consulting Association are being targeted by lawyers for the builders suing them.
Blacklist Support Group secretary Dave Smith said:
“All of the platitudes and half apologies from the companies over the past six or seven years, and all of their crocodile tears, [claims of] rogue managers are clearly nonsense,” he scoffed.
“People at the highest levels are hiding stuff on their laptops. It calls into question all of the promises made to Parliament and the High Court.”
The court heard that the PC and laptop of one Balfour Beatty manager were wiped in April 2013 — though initial searches found that an internal Balfour Beatty blacklist was stored on another executive’s laptop.
Mr Smith said the firms’ lawyers “conceded everything” yesterday after initially claiming that searching through the back-up tapes of wiped computers would be too expensive and time consuming.
They will now be “forced to go and do this search for all the documentation and the emails,” he added.
A High Court judge also ordered the firms to pay the builders’ pre-hearing costs. It is thought this will cost an additional £100,000.
In the past few weeks general union Unite has rightly provided legal resources so that blacklisted workers can continue their case rather than accept financial settlements from the companies.
Another pre-hearing is set to take place on February 1 before the case is due to come to a full trial in May. For the background to the scandal see below.
Background to the blaclisting scandal
The blacklisting scandal hit the headlines in 2009 when the Consulting Association’s offices were raided by the Information Commissioner. The Consulting Association compiled a secret database on thousands of construction workers. The files in had names, addresses and National Insurance numbers, comments by managers, newspaper clippings. The organisation acted as a covert vetting service funded by the industry. When people applied for work on building sites, senior employees at Carillion, Balfour Beatty, Skanska, Kier, Costain, McAlpine Carillion, Balfour Beatty, Skanska, Kier, Costain, McAlpineand more than 30 other companies would fax their details to the Consulting Association, where they would be checked for a match. Blacklisting was a secret tool used by companies to keep out people they didn’t like. Those with files were often union members who had raised health-and-safety concerns. This went on for sixteen years.
More worryingly still the British State has been implicated. In a posthumously published newspaper interview, Ian Kerr of the Consulting Association recalled a meeting in 2008 at which construction industry directors were addressed by an officer from the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (Netcu). Kerr said a two-way information exchange began.
In 2012 a solicitor complained on behalf of the Blacklist Support Group about collusion between the police and Consulting Association. This was passed to the Independent Police Complaints Authority, which said “it was likely that all Special Branches were involved in providing information about potential employees”. Special Branch is the political/intelligence section of the UK Police.