Thompsons secures victory for blacklisted Unite workers

Thompsons Solicitors works with Unite the union to fight for blacklisted construction workers

The biggest blacklisting scandal in UK construction industry history has ended in victory as 256 workers are set to receive more than £10 million in compensation.

Unite, the country's biggest union, said today (Monday 9 May) that the pay-outs could range from £25,000 up to £200,000 per claimant, depending on such factors as the loss of income and the seriousness of the defamation.

Unite’s determined legal stance last week resulted in a further £4 million for 97 of the 256 claimants, whose original compensation offers the union deemed inadequate. This brought the total compensation package to £10,435,000.

Unite waged a five-year fight, following the election of Len McCluskey as General Secretary of Unite, against household names, such as Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd and Balfour Beatty Engineering Services as well as more than 30 other firms, which were part of a blacklisting conspiracy that saw hundreds of workers lose those jobs and have had their lives ruined for carrying out legitimate trade union activities, such as health and safety.

At the centre of the scandal were the machinations of the secretive Consulting Association which was raided by the Information Commissioner in 2009.

Today (Monday 9 May) Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The massive scale of the agreed damages - more than £10 million - shows the gravity of the misdeeds of these major construction companies who created and used the Consulting Association as a vehicle to enable them to blacklist trade unionists on behalf of more than 30 construction companies.

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

“Under the agreement they can once more apply for jobs in the construction industry without fear of discrimination.

"This settlement is a clear statement on behalf of the Trade Union movement that never again can such nefarious activities be allowed to happen against decent working people trying to earn an honest living in a tough industry.

“The wheels of justice may turn slowly, but like Hillsborough, eventually justice is done and is seen to be done.

“The message is clear that there can never be any hiding place for bosses in the construction and any other industry thinking of reverting to shameful blacklisting practices against committed trade unionists.”

Unite director of legal services Howard Beckett said: “Unite is proud to have fought right to the end to get the maximum we believed was possible against companies that had to be dragged kicking and screaming to make unprecedented admissions of guilt last October.

“In addition to financial compensation, admissions of guilt and formal apologies the companies have made, as a result of this litigation, to issue guidance to site managers to ensure blacklisting is not occurring on a local level and to ensure that Unite members receive no less favourable treatment for job applications, as a result of this litigation.

“However, what remains outstanding from the agreement is the legislative definition of blacklisting, as outlined in the Employment Relations Act 1999 (Blacklisting) Regulations 2010.

“We view the secret vetting operation carried out by the Consulting Association as a blacklist, and hence in contravention of the Act. This is the core reason as to why these companies should be answerable to a Public Inquiry and why the Westminster and all Assembly Governments should continue to ask serious questions of these companies before they are engaged for public contracts.

“Finally, Unite would help to thank its legal team – Anthony Hudson QC at Matrix; Ben Cooper, counsel at Old Square and Richard Arthur and his team at Thompsons Solicitors – who stood should to shoulder with the trade union movement during this lengthy - and ultimately victorious - landmark case.”

Richard Arthur, National Coordinator for Trade Union Strategy at Thompsons Solicitors said: “Whilst no amount of money can bring justice for a life wrecked by blacklisting, this is a landmark victory for the victims and their families. Unite’s persistence in extracting the best financial and non-financial terms is vindicated, and we at Thompsons Solicitors are proud to have played a part fighting for Unite members.”