Construction firms in lawsuit over £55m payout to blacklisted trade unionists

Author: Rob Evans, the Guardian (UK), Published on: 6 May 2019

Major construction firms are embroiled in a legal dispute over a multimillion-pound compensation bill that has been paid to more than 1,100 blacklisted trade unionists.

The workers won payouts totalling £55m after they discovered that construction firms had unlawfully compiled confidential files on their political and employment activities, preventing them from getting jobs.

Eight firms, including Sir Robert McAlpine and Balfour Beatty, have so far paid the compensation, and issued an “unreserved and sincere” apology, to the blacklisted workers. Now the eight companies are pursuing legal action to force another firm, Amec Foster Wheeler, to make a contribution to the compensation bill, arguing that the blacklisting was organised across the construction industry...

Amec is resisting the legal action, arguing that it is not culpable, according to legal documents filed in the high court.

The legal wrangling comes as the eight construction firms face another round of compensation claims from workers who allege that they too were blacklisted. A trial is due to start on 4 June...

More than 40 construction firms secretly funded the blacklisting operation between 1993 and 2009 under the guise of an anodyne organisation known as the Consulting Association. The firms maintained a database of individual workers by pooling information such as their suspected political sympathies, perceived militancy and details of their health and personal relationships. They used the database to deny work to those whom they considered to be troublemakers. These workers were not told why they had been barred from jobs and often suffered long periods of unemployment...The other firms in the group are Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Skanska UK, Vinci and Carillion. 

A spokesperson for Wood Group, the oil services firm that bought Amec Foster Wheeler in 2017, said: “We cannot comment on a matter that is currently before the court. However, we would point out that Amec’s construction-related businesses which used the Consulting Association were all sold or wound up in 2007.”

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Related companies: Balfour Beatty Carillion Costain Kier Laing O’Rourke Sir Robert McAlpine Skanska Vinci Wood (formerly Amec Foster Wheeler)