Sir Robert McAlpine denies blacklisting employees

Despite being arguably at the centre of the blacklisting scandal since the offices of blacklist compiler The Consulting Association (TCA) were raided in 2009, construction giant Sir Robert McAlpine has now denied to a high court judge that it ever blacklisted employees.

29 Nov 2013| News

In oral evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee as part of its inquiry into blacklisting in the construction industry, the firm’s Director Cullum McAlpine admitted in January that his business had made extensive use of TCA’s data during 2008.

Sir Robert McAlpine checked the names of potential employees against TCA’s blacklist when hiring for major projects, including the Olympics, he confessed.

Chief Executive of TCA Ian Kerr, who has now passed away, last year told the Scottish Affairs Committee that Sir Robert McAlpine was firm instrumental in founding TCA. Cullum McAlpine was himself the first Chairman of the organisation after providing a £10,000 start-up loan to launch its operations, Kerr claimed. What’s more, he told the panel that TCA meetings took place in the Sir Robert McAlpine Headquarters in London. The construction company denies that it established the organisation, which based its records on those of then-defunct renowned blacklister the Economic Forum.

Kerr also told the Committee that Sir Robert McAlpine paid on his behalf the £5,000 fine he was charged by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) following its raid of his offices, which was levied for breaking data protection laws. They also paid his solicitor’s fees and all costs associated with shutting down TCA, including redundancy pay for its four staff totalling around £25,000. Sir Robert McAlpine has admitted that pay-offs were provided to the workers, which included Kerr’s wife and two daughters.

However, the company’s legal defence denied implicit allegations that it provided the redundancy settlements in return for Kerr’s silence on the firm’s involvement with the scandal.

“The payments were made to Mr Kerr’s daughters expressly at the request of Mr Kerr,” the Observer quoted the legal papers as saying.

The Scottish Affairs Committee has seen the files seized by ICO and reports that many people were included on the blacklist simply for their political beliefs, their membership in a trade union, or for raising health and safety concerns on site. Even environmental activists were found on the TCA files.

However, ahead of a compensation claim brought by Guny, Clark & Ryan solicitors and unions Unite, GMB and Ucatt representing blacklisted workers, Sir Robert McAlpine told the judge the database was used to help it “keep an eye” on individuals, but that it was not used as an employment blacklist.

In line with the evidence Cullum McAlpine gave to the Scottish Affairs Committee earlier this year, the firm told the judge the information was used to help identify dangerous or unlawful activity on its sites. One of the claims Cullum McAlpine made before the Committee was that it was used to look out for illegal immigrants in the workforce.

This, however, fails to explain why so many people were included on the list for being involved in trade union activity or raising health and safety issues; or answer to claims that the blacklist was secretly distributed to and added to by senior HR Managers in the firm.

In its interim report on its inquiry, the Scottish Affairs Committee confessed to being unswayed by the apologies and apparent regrets of the 44 companies involved in TCA, saying its cynicism was supported by the fact firms like McAlpine continue to vehemently uphold their innocence in court.

Legal representatives for the workers and unions involved will be in the High Court today (29 November 2013), and the Observer reports that they will bring as-yet unseen evidence of a link between Sir Robert McAlpine and the TCA’s activities, such as proof that Kerr’s company car was registered at a PO Box owned by the construction company, and copies of correspondence allegedly sent by Cullum McAlpine himself.