15 October 2015
The lawyers for eight major building firms complicit in the blacklisting scandal have release an “unprecedented apology” for the “anxiety and stress” they caused the blacklisted workers.
The defendants in the case, including Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and VINCI, admitted breaches of confidence and being part of an organisation that collected defamatory information against the 600 blacklisted construction workers.
As Dave Smith, general secretary, of the Blacklist Support Group says; “This is not some road to Damascus conversion but rather a cynical attempt to avoid the spectacle of a ten-week week High Court conspiracy trial set to start in May 2016”.
He continued; “But if the blacklisting companies think a few thousand pounds will stop public scrutiny, they are very wrong. We did not arrive at this point simply due to a legal challenge but because of six years of political, industrial and direct action campaigning by the Blacklist Support Group (BSG), UNITE, GMB and UCATT. The blacklisting issue has rekindled the best traditions of solidarity across our movement and we intend to continue our fight for justice. Full disclosure of the evidence that has been deliberately concealed and a public inquiry to expose the full extent of this national human rights scandal is essential”.
The workers were included on the blacklist for raising health and safety concerns, or being union reps.
The Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “Blacklisting is a scandal that has ruined lives and led to hardship and misery for thousands of people. The admissions from the blacklisters and the damages for the blacklisted are an important step on the road to justice in righting that wrong.
“That road won’t be completed, though, or the stain of blacklisting removed until there is a full public inquiry and the livelihoods of the blacklisted restored by the firms involved giving them a permanent job.”
Michael Newman of the law firm Leigh Day, which represents GMB members in the legal action against the construction companies, said: “Blacklisting is a timely reminder of the importance of trade union rights against the collective weight of corporate interests, and both the trade unions and the Blacklist Support Group have been tireless in their campaigning.
“For years the blacklisting construction companies have denied all liability, so these admissions represent a significant step towards securing the compensation these workers are due, and due recognition of the impact blacklisting had on their lives.”
John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, said: “I am very happy for the workers and hopefully this is the first step on the path for them and their families to get the justice owed to them that has been too long been overdue.”
The Blacklist Support Group were called to give evidence at committee stage of the Trade Union Bill alongside Amnesty International and Liberty. The video of David Smith doing so is available to watch here. Smith says in the video; “I am very very sceptical about the state keeping a list of picket supervisors. Members of the public are also allowed to ask for these names, so it could be that employers could be coming and picking up these names…this could clearly be turned into a state sponsored blacklist”.