The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 24th May 2019


UNITE the union and its lawyers Thompsons and OH Parsons have announced that it has settled its current long-running blacklisting case against the construction companies that systematically ruined the lives of their workers. As a result, 53 blacklisted workers will receive over £1.9 million in compensation from the companies who were responsible for making workers unemployed.

Additionally, the construction companies will be placing £230,000 in to a training fund to be administered by Unite, for all victims of blacklisting who have brought proceedings.

The construction companies have agreed to make their own announcement, promising to “ensure that the modern UK construction sector provides the highest standards of employment and HR practice.”

This is the union’s second major victory in this long-running saga. In 2016 court action secured £19.34 million for 412 blacklisted workers.

The victory was not unalloyed. It was unable to force into court one of the principle architects of blacklisting, Callum McAlpine, original chairman of the Consulting Association, which did the dirty work, and a director of construction company Sir Robert McAlpine, who paid for and benefitted from it.

Systematic blacklisting of construction workers was confirmed a decade ago after a raid on the Consulting Association’s offices by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The union claims that his refusal to appear in court only serves to re-emphasise the need for a full public inquiry into blacklisting. It also demands investigation of the involvement of the police, the security forces and the government in the blacklisting of construction workers.

Unite’s assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “This is an historic agreement which provides some degree of justice to a further group of construction workers who had their working lives needlessly ruined by blacklisting construction companies.

“The creation of a training fund controlled by Unite is a huge breakthrough, and is to be welcomed, as it will allow the union to assist victims of blacklisting return to employment.

“The Labour Party is committed to holding a public inquiry into blacklisting and it is to their deep shame that the Conservative government, many of whose friends were key players in the blacklisting scandal, has refused to act.

“The blacklisting construction companies’ promised public statement is welcome about their future good behaviour and a new relationship with unions, but these words must be followed up by genuine actions.

“The construction companies have offered financial settlements which all Claimants have now accepted. Some of the Claimants will make statements to be read in Open Court.

“Unite the union acknowledges that the settlement includes a substantial payment of £230,000 to a fund to be used by the union for the training of the Claimants in this litigation and in the Construction Industry Vetting Information Group Litigation, and others affected by the secret vetting system and to provide educational and training support to individuals working on construction sites in the United Kingdom, in particular on issues related to workers’ health and safety, which the parties agree is essential.”

In its statement however, the union unfortunately seems carelessly to have overlooked a comparatively minor villain in the piece who contributed to the blacklisting scandal. That was the union itself, or at least its predecessors. Some of those involved in blacklisting have reported that some names came from trade union officials who were as keen as the bosses to see that ‘troublemakers’ did not get jobs.

In 2017 no fewer than 41 blacklisted workers demanded that Unite commission an independent inquiry into these claims. This demand was accepted by Unite’s General Secretary Len McCluskey as he was in the middle of a hard-fought election contest — he promised that he would do so and stressed that: “I will not allow any officer who has colluded in blacklisting to work for Unite.”

Daniel O’Sullivan, who was chairman of the Consulting Association 2000—01 said that as part of his job he had meetings with senior union officials from the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT), which is now part of Unite.

Another manager involved in running the blacklist was Dudley Barratt, who was head of industrial relations at the Costain construction firm in the 1980s and 1990s. He said that trade union officials supplied him with the “names of individuals who they thought should not be employed on sites, on the basis that there might be a risk of these individuals using the opportunity to cause trouble to undermine a project and the official trade union activities on that site.”

Electrician Mick Anderson was just one blacklisted worker who received compensation for being blacklisted and who discovered that he was “not recommended”, by of all people his own union, Amicus, which merged with the TGWU to form Unite. Another blacklisted worker, bricklayer Brian Higgins, who was compensated for blacklisting in the 1990s and 2000s, discovered that his name had been passed on by the London and South East Regional Secretary of UCATT, Jerry Swain, who is still employed by Unite as National Officer for Construction — which suggests that Len McCluskey needs reminding of his 2017 election pledge.