Payout for workers on industry blacklist
Major construction companies are to compensate workers whose names were on a secret industry blacklist.
The dramatic development follows years of campaigning by unions after it was discovered that more than 3,200 names were kept on the list, drawn up by a shadowy organisation called The Consulting Association (TCA).
It is thought that the names of about 100 building workers from the South West were on the association's list. Of that number, 19 were from Devon, three from Cornwall and three from Somerset.
Those involved claimed they were denied work, often for merely raising legitimate concerns about health and safety on building sites.
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The eight firms announced that they are working together to develop a scheme to compensate construction workers whose names were on the TCA database. A statement said: "The companies – Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O'Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and VINCI PLC – all apologise for their involvement with TCA and the impact that its database may have had on any individual construction worker."
It said they had established the Construction Workers Compensation Scheme, to "make it as simple as possible for any worker with a legitimate claim to access compensation". It also said those companies involved in the scheme would support the introduction of a code of conduct to prevent it happening again.
Unions welcomed the news, although some campaigners said more should be done.
Justin Bowden of the GMB said: "Firms admitting they engaged in a terrible abuse of the civil rights of thousands of UK workers is an important step. The next step is clean up and pay up."
Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said the proposals looked "encouraging", adding: "Unite is calling on contractors to employ, and where relevant support the up-skilling of, blacklisted workers. Employers have a moral duty to give them back the jobs that were wrongly taken away from them."
The Blacklist Support Group said it was not cracking open the champagne just yet, adding that "most of the senior managers implicated in the conspiracy are still in post".
"So far there are no firm proposals, only a vague promise of compensation for any workers with a 'legitimate claim'," it said. "We want every single person who is on the Consulting Association blacklist to be compensated and jobs guaranteed for blacklisted workers on major construction projects."
The Consulting Association was closed down following a raid on its West Midlands offices by the Information Commissioner's Office. But unions said workers continued to be discriminated against if their names were on the list.
Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said: ''Given that 44 companies have been named as having used the construction industry blacklist, it is regrettable this announcement only covers eight firms.
"We will be closely monitoring and scrutinising the compensation scheme as it progresses to ensure it provides proper redress to victims swiftly and commands confidence. It also underlines the need for a full inquiry into the blacklisting scandal to make sure it is never repeated."
Steve Murphy, general secretary of the building workers' union Ucatt, said it was "a step forward", but added: "To be a legitimate scheme, all 3,213 blacklisted victims or their dependents must be notified that they were on a blacklist."
James Welch, legal director for Liberty, branded the blacklist "a large-scale illegal operation involving mass invasion of privacy and serious data protection breaches" and called for a "proper investigation and a robust response".