Blacklist scandal: construction workers awarded millions of pounds in compensation

Leading construction firms have agreed to pay a total of around £75 million to hundreds of workers affected by a secret blacklist.

The list was funded by major companies including Sir Robert McAlpine and Balfour Beatty, and contained information including the political views, trade union activities, and sometimes even the personal relationships of thousands of construction workers.

It was used by building firms over several decades to secretly vet those applying to work on building sites.

Unions reach hefty settlements

Unite, the UK’s largest trade union, reached a settlement with construction firms for £10 million, which will be shared between 256 workers.

In April, union GMB reached a £5.4 million settlement with construction companies, saying some members would receive as much as £200,000 compensation. And construction union UCATT won £8.9 million for its members.

Other amounts have been agreed between the companies and individual workers.

Harmful impact of the blacklist

The general secretary of Unite, Len McCluskey, said:

“The sums to be paid out go a considerable way to acknowledge the hurt, suffering and loss of income our members and their families have been through over many years”.

The construction companies have accepted that the “secret vetting operation should never have happened”, and last year issued an apology for the impact it had had on people’s job prospects and personal lives.

The raid that uncovered the blacklist

In 2009, a raid by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) uncovered secret files on over 3,000 people. Information had been collected about construction workers who were leftwing and seen as potential troublemakers, most of whom were trade union members.

It is thought that some of the information may have been supplied by the police or the security services.

What happens next?

There are now no more claims waiting for settlement, and in a joint statement the construction companies said they wished to “draw a line under this matter and continue to work together with the trade unions at national, regional and site level”.

But figures involved in the blacklisting scandal still hold senior posts in the construction firms, and the unions have called for a public inquiry.

Many victims of the blacklist also believe that executives at Sir Robert McAlpine illegally tried to destroy evidence, and they plan to demand a police investigation.

Although the construction firms wish to draw a line under this ugly episode, it seems unlikely we’ve heard the last of it.

Have you witnessed blacklisting in the construction industry? Let us know in the comments below.

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