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Unions and politicians threaten action over employee blacklist

The glittering list of contractors accused of using the ‘construction blacklist’ to vet potential employees are bracing themselves for the legal and political fallout.

Trade unions UCATT and Unite are both seeking legal advice on suing some of the 45 contractors named, while Labour MP Michael Clapham has tabled a Parliamentary Early Day Motion deploring the existence of the list and noting ominously that many of the accused contractors are engaged on public works.

Contractors including Balfour Beatty, Sir Robert McAlpine, Taylor Woodrow and Costain are being investigated by the ICO over the blacklist, seized in a raid on Droitwich firm the Consulting Association.

The watchdog looks set to issue enforcement notices to a number of contractors if they are found to have used it to vet employees. But the backlash is unlikely to end there.

The Early Day Motion notes that “many of the companies who donated to the Consulting Association are currently engaged on publicly-procured work projects worth billions of pounds [and] considers that there may be legal implications where, for example, an employee or worker believes they were dismissed because they were on the list”.

Meanwhile, from Monday, workers who believe themselves to be on the list will be able to apply to the ICO to retrieve the data.

UCATT general secretary, Alan Richie, said: “It would be outrageous if anyone who is on the blacklist and was discriminated against couldn’t get justice.”

BAM, one of the firms under investigation, said the issue had already caused a stir, but insisted it was not involved in the use or purchase of any list.

A spokesman said: “We have already had contact from some of our clients asking about this list. And thankfully we can say that it is not a practice that BAM, or previously HGB, has engaged in at all.

“But Michael Clapham is right, of course, that there are a lot of contractors on public works because that is the primary source of revenue at the moment. So there is a wider industry issue here.”

How the blacklist scandal unravelled

More than 40 of the country’s biggest construction companies – including Balfour Beatty, Costain, NG Bailey, Laing O’Rourke, Morgan Est, Miller Construction, Sir Robert McAlpine and Vinci – were accused by the government last week of subscribing to a confidential personal database to vet employees.

The blacklist, seized by the Information Commissioners Office in a raid on the Droitwich premises of the Consulting Association, contained personal information on 3,213 individuals, including personal relationships and union activity.

The comments on the database include the following, the ICO said:

  • “Caused IR problems on that site (lazy and a trouble stirrer)”
  • “Poor time keeper will cause trouble strong TU”
  • “UCATT very bad news”
  •  “Communist Party”
  •  “Ex shop steward. Definite problems. No Go”
  • “do not touch!!”
  •  “Irish ex army bad egg”
  • “applied to ……via agency for …….. project. Main contact given details . Response to agency - “not required” Agency will say - ‘job now filled’ as their response to above.
  • “A litigious person…..Took ….to Tribunal citing Data Protection Act and Discrimination. Asked fro £10,000 to settle outside IT Co. offered £2,000 eventually settled for £3,000………His C.V is sound so is employable, but if taken on by com can be difficult

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