Unite settles more than a million pound in blacklisting legal case

Unite has secured more than a million pound in compensation for workers in a long-running blacklisting case against the construction companies who systematically ruined the lives of their workers.

As part of the overall settlement, which is subject to court approval this Friday (17 May), 53 blacklisted workers will receive over £1.9 million in compensation. The defendants have also agreed to pay Unite’s legal fees.

The construction companies have agreed to place the sum of £230,000 into a training fund which will be managed by the union, for all victims of blacklisting who have brought a claim against them. The fund is not restricted to retraining in the construction sector.

As part of the settlement, the judge’s permission will be sought for independent statements to be made in open court where individual workers will explain how blacklisting has ruined their lives.

The construction companies have also agreed to issue their own announcement where they will aim to work at national, regional and site level to ensure that the modern UK construction sector provides the highest standards of employment and HR practice. Unite will hold them to account in this regard.

The latest court case follows the 2016 court action which resulted in Unite securing £19.34 million for 412 blacklisted workers.

Unite had utilised every legal avenue available to force Cullum McAlpine who is considered by Unite to be one of the main architects behind the Consulting Association blacklist of construction workers to give evidence in court under oath and be cross-examined but this has proved to be impossible.

Cullum McAlpine’s refusal to appear in court and answer for his actions only serves to re-emphasise the need for a full public inquiry into blacklisting. As well as forcing Mr McAlpine and other key figures behind the blacklist to give evidence it also must investigate the involvement of the police, the security forces and the government in the blacklisting of construction workers.

Unite assistant general secretary, Howard Beckett said: “This is a historic agreement which provides some degree of justice to a further group of construction workers who had their working lives needlessly ruined by blacklisting construction companies.

“The creation of a training fund controlled by Unite is a huge breakthrough and is to be welcomed, as it will allow the union to assist victims of blacklisting return to employment.

“The refusal of Cullum McAlpine to give evidence is bitterly disappointing.

“Unite remains utterly committed to ensuring that those guilty of ruining workers’ lives should be forced to account for their actions. This is why it is absolutely essential that a full public inquiry into blacklisting is imperative.

“The Labour party is committed to holding a public inquiry into blacklisting and it is to their deep shame that the Conservative government, many of whose friends were key players in the blacklisting scandal, has refused to act.

“The blacklisting construction companies promised public statement is welcome about their future good behaviour and a new relationship with unions, but these words must be followed up by genuine actions.

“If they are serious, they must provide genuine unrestricted access to their sites and workforces, end the practice of moving union activists from one job to another to disrupt union organisation, end the reliance on agency labour and end the scandal of bogus self-employment.”

Claimant's press release

Unite the Union, Thompsons Solicitors, and OH Parsons Solicitors, and the following construction companies - Balfour Beatty, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK, and VINCI, announced today that they have settled the litigation between them regarding the activities of the Economic League and the Consulting Association.

The litigation arose after the discovery of the secret vetting system, which operated between the early 1970s and February 2009, when it was closed.
Unite the Union, Thompsons and OH Parsons commenced the litigation to protect the interests of their members and clients.

The construction companies have offered financial settlements which all Claimants have now accepted. Some of the Claimants will make statements to be read in Open Court.

Unite the Union acknowledges that the settlement includes a substantial payment of £230,000 to a fund to be used by the union for the training of the Claimants in this litigation and in the Construction Industry Vetting Information Group Litigation, and others affected by the secret vetting system and to provide educational and training support to individuals working on construction sites in the United Kingdom, in particular on issues related to workers’ health and safety, which the parties agree is essential.