First tranche of damages awarded to blacklisted construction workers
Friday 12th February 2016
From the archive: Just so you know, this article is more than 3 years old.
The news comes after most of the companies accountable for blacklisting workers confessed their liability in court last October and admitted to breaching confidence/misuse of private information, breaching the Data Protection Act 1988 and defamation.
So far 71 UCATT members have received payments averaging almost £80,000, to reflect the damage to their reputations and loss of earnings. These are the first blacklisted victims to receive damages but 89 still remain.
Negotiations are ongoing for compensation for these outstanding cases, which will go to trial in May this year if settlement is not agreed. Workers who think they have been a victim of blacklisting must file their claim by 28 February. Eight new claimants have come forward in the last few weeks.
In the High Court in October, defending construction firms Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O'Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and VINCI, represented by McFarlanes, apologised to workers who suffered adverse consequences because of their inclusion. UCATT is now trying to obtain this apology in a formal letter.
The blacklist was maintained by a company called the Consulting Association, which was retained by the contractors to run checks on construction workers. The Consulting Association kept files on more than 3,200 workers. Most were construction workers, though firefighters, teachers and Royal Mail workers were also included. Some were on the list for reporting unsafe procedures at building sites while others were union activists, for example. The list was discovered in 2009 following an Information Commissioner's Office raid.
Brian Rye, the union's acting general secretary, said: "UCATT has been fighting the blacklisting case since the day it was revealed. This initial tranche of compensation is the first significant milestone in the battle to win justice for blacklisted workers. I hope that this compensation will provide some recompense for these members who have suffered appalling treatment at the hands of the blacklisters."
He added: "We know there are more construction workers out there who had their lives blighted by the evil of blacklisting. Many of these workers will be retired. We're trying to get the message out, so as many as possible can at least get some satisfaction for the wrong that was done to them."
UCATT is keen to ensure all documentation that is part of the case is kept for thorough examination in the event of a public inquiry. The union says its lawyers are also trying to secure an assurance that, on the unearthing of anymore documents about blacklisted workers or their personal information, the individuals concerned are given access to them before they are destroyed by the blacklisting companies to prevent future exclusions.
The GLA, to be renamed the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) will also gain direct enforcement powers where it finds workers are being systematically exploited through unsafe working conditions or pay below the minimum wage.The announcement came in the government’s response to its consultation titled Tackling Exploitation in the Labour Market which closed in December.
The report, The Union Effect: How unions make a difference on health and safety, reviews research that finds there are 24% fewer incidents in workplaces with recognised unions compared with those that do not.Staff were found to be twice as likely to have received safety and health training in the previous year if a union was present in their workplace, and were also more willing to report hazards.
Edgemere Projects of Tarporley, Cheshire, was principal contractor at a construction site in Wilmslow when a pack of bricks fell on 23 year-old Andrew Dytiche on 7 January 2011. Dytiche sustained fatal crush injuries.HSE inspector found materials storage at the site was badly organised and pallets used to store and move bricks were also in poor condition.Edgemere Projects pleaded guilty to charges of failing to protect employees and contractors under Sections 2(1) & 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £97,500 plus £300,000 prosecution costs.
As we reported on 27 January, a crew from Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering and workers supplied by Littlewood Fencing were deployed on 1 October 2012 to repair an Armco barrier that had been hit by a beer lorry. They were also clearing up the thousands of beer cans on the carriageway, removing debris and setting up temporary traffic management systems.
Larry Newman, 37, was part of a team sent out by subsidiary firm Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering to install temporary traffic management measures and repair a barrier that had been damaged in a collision on the A2 road. The crew deployed a lorry-mounted crane to remove a post footing that had snapped. During the work, the crane became unstable and swung backwards, hitting Newman on the head and killing him. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The fraud was revealed last October during an episode of Newsnight following investigations by the BBC and CITB. Thousands of applicants will have to retake their HS&E exam as the CITB announced it is recalling 6,000 tests, and more than 2,000 people are required to reapply for their Site Safety Plus certificate.