Construction is one of the UK’s most dangerous industries, seeing a huge number of accident at work compensation claims every year. Scandalously, many people who have highlighted health and safety failings in the sector, who have communicated or led trade unions, or who have engaged in whistle blowing, found themselves blacklisted by employers, effectively hindering or preventing them from working in the sector any longer.
The Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) has identified 3,213 different blacklisting victims from the construction industry and is demanding that these individuals or their families are told about the blacklisting. MPs have also condemned the practice and eight of the UK’s largest construction companies have revealed they intend to launch a compensation fund for blacklisted employees. The Consulting Association (TCA) is heavily implicated in the scandal, and Skanska UK, Sir Robert McAlpine, Balfour Beatty, Kier, Costain, Carillion, Laing O’Rourke and Vinci have all apologised for being involved with the TCA.
However, UCATT is calling for a full public inquiry into the saga, following reports that the security services and police special branches may have also played a role in construction blacklisting, and that the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has details of another blacklist that was not controlled by the TCA and several other TCA blacklists.
Whistleblowing, blacklisting and the construction sector
Personal injury solicitors strongly believe in the right for people to join trade unions, and support the right for employees to highlight health and safety concerns or environmental problems on building sites. Legal experts also question the logic of construction companies that blacklist workers – flagging up these problems could protect businesses from accident at work compensation claims or fines for environmental damage and could improve the company’s reputation.
Nobody should be punished for trying to improve safety standards in the workplace and for trying to support the wellbeing of their colleagues and the general public. With workplace accident claims so common in construction, employers should be grateful for whistleblowers. Penalising them and blacklisting them is not only bad for the employee, but is also bad for the business itself.
Everyone who has been blacklisted should be able to achieve justice, and no win no fee solicitors believe the government is responsible for ensuring this justice occurs. Currently, many blacklisting victims do not even know they were blacklisted.
UCATT calls for answers
With the blacklisting scandal deepening, UCATT has said that everyone who has been adversely affected by construction sector blacklisting should be able to find out the extent of the state’s involvement and whether or not the police enabled highly-sensitive information to be placed on their files.
UCATT General Secretary Steve Murphy pointed out that the ICO appears to have known that blacklisting extended beyond the TCA all along, but has only just revealed this information. “Serious questions” should be asked about why the ICO failed to reveal all the information it had about blacklisting at an earlier date, he argued, saying the government would be making a “serious error of judgement” if it continued to be reliant on the ICO for its investigations into blacklisting.