Blacklisting in the high court

Magazine – Trade Unions
Saturday, 08 September 2012 06:46

A group of blacklisted workers has launched a High Court claim against construction giant Sir Robert McAlpine which could potentially be worth £600million. The claim targets Sir Robert McAlpine as the company with the worst record of blacklisting. A blacklisted construction worker explains the background to the action through his own experience.

Like many others in construction industry I put up with horrendous working conditions, poor pay, being sacked at minutes’ notice, harassed and bullied. Eventually I joined a union and tried to improve our working conditions. We just wanted to get decent canteens and changing rooms, to improve health and safety so we weren’t killed or seriously injured. That was during the 1980s & 90s, many other comrades did the same before me.

The last big site I was on – the Jubilee line – finished in 2000. I was one of the elected stewards on that job. In 2001 I only worked for a few weeks here and there despite applying for jobs on many large sites where men were needed.

I struggled to pay bills and pay my mortgage. Eventually I hit rock bottom and had a nervous breakdown. Thankfully I came through it with the help of friends and family. In 2001 to earn a living I left the construction industry, getting work in the maintenance industry.

In 2007 I got work on a Robert McAlpine site but was sacked after two days for raising health and safety issues. I managed to get work again after a few months. Then in 2009, along with 3200 others I discovered there was a blacklist in circulation. I got my file from the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) following their raid on the office of Ian Kerr, the man behind the blacklist. It is 18 pages long and contains my National Insurance (NI) number on it, Date of Birth, my addresses over last the 15 years.

It’s like I was being followed, with quotes like, “Is that the same person who lived in Ilford now living in Romford?” “Yes we can confirm it is.” It says that I am a troublemaker, a militant; that I would go on strike at the drop of a hat, intimidate supervisors, force people to join the union and warns ‘do not employ under any circumstances’! The file is full of lies and is an infringement of the Data Protection Act – just for starters. I also believe my union supplied information to Ian Kerr as there are minutes from a union branch meeting on my file where I was quite vocal over a pay deal sell out. Amicus denied any involvement in this, and said MI5 may have supplied information.

That’s unlikely as I knew everyone at that particular branch meeting. Certainly Unite failed miserably in representing their members over blacklisting. Maybe they need to change their legal team. The Blacklist Support Group was set up by rank and file activists to fight the case and is now using independent lawyers to act for us.

A High Court claim is underway against the Robert McAlpine company and others. The wheels of justice turn very slowly but hopefully we may get compensation next year.

Thousands of decent hard working construction workers lives were ruined and blacklisting is still going onto today. I tried to get on the Olympic Stadium in 2009. A colleague of mine who was working there was told by his supervisor that “Mr ********** ****** has tried to get on this job. He ain’t got a chance, he will never work in London again!” Many other blacklisted workers face similar problems. The mental torture is not over. The fight for the right to work in construction continues. One day justice may be done.

For further information visit the Blacklist blog at courtesy of Hazards magazine.

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