The 70 blacklisting damages claims lodged in the High Court by lawyers acting for GMB members this week are the first of several “monthly waves”, according to the union’s legal and corporate affairs officer Maria Ludkin.
The 70 individuals are claiming compensation from six construction companies that used the services of The Consulting Association (TCA), which operated the secretive blacklist system for 16 years. The six were named in Construction News as Carillion, Sir Robert McAlpine, Balfour Beatty, Kier, Costain and Skanska. In total, more than 40 construction companies were associated with the TCA.
Where it can be established that a particular company gave the individual’s name to the TCA, solicitor Leigh Day is claiming for defamation. But where it’s unclear how the individual’s name was included, the claim is for conspiracy.
"We expect to be granted full disclosure of the information held by the ICO, so a lot more members could come to light. In total, there are 3,213 people named in the files."
Maria Ludkin, GMB
The GMB-led claims are also likely to be joined by other claims backed by UCATT and the Blacklist Support Group.
Ludkin told CM: “The others are slightly behind us – we’ve all had difficulty getting the files out of the Information Commissioner’s Office, and they were eventually delivered to us in a heavily redacted way. We’ve had to comb through them to cross-refer with our members’ details.
“Based on the files we’ve seen so far, there are 109 members affected, and we’re now doing work on the other 39 cases. But now that we’ve launched the action, we expect to be granted full disclosure of the information held by the ICO, so a lot more members could come to light. In total, there are 3,213 people named in the files.”
The unions are angry that the ICO has not proactively contacted the individuals named in the files seized in its raid on the TCA’s premises in 2009, citing the need to maintain data protection rules. In comparison, Ludkin says, the police contacted the celebrities and other individuals who had been affected by tabloid phone hacking scandal, with the ICO’s co-operation.
But Ludkin said: “Since we lodged these claims, we have had a lot of coverage in the regional press and many phone calls from memebers who think they might have been on the list. We intend to batch-issue claims every month.”
She added: “It will be interesting to see how the contractors proceed. Will they set up a compensation fund between them [which could offer out of court settlements] or will they decide to defend the claim?”
In a prepared statement, Carillion said: “Carillion has not received any communication from the GMB or its solicitors in respect of any proposed litigation so we are a little surprised at their latest press release.
“Any Carillion involvement with the Consulting Association referencing service ended by 2004. This was long before the practice became unlawful. As you would expect, Carillion will defend itself vigorously in any litigation.”
The GMB’s Ludkin also backed calls for a public inquiry into the blacklisting scandal, which she said could consider how employment patterns in construction and the practice of using agencies had contributed to the emergence of blacklisting by undermining workers’ employment rights.
The Scottish Public Affairs Committee of MPs, which produced a damning interim report on the blacklisting scandal in April, is inviting further evidence submissions. It intends to look at whether blacklisting is a current practice in construction or in other industries, the level of compensation for affected workers, penalties for the companies involved in blacklisting, and possible changes in the law to eradicate it in the future.