Blacklisted workers from Croydon and over 60 other locations in the UK have started a legal battle with companies that prevented them from getting work.
Workers launched a legal campaign, last Friday, in response to the long-running blacklisting scandal that has left workers unable to work due to their complaints about health and safety or their involvement in trade union activism.
Seventy nine compensation claims were lodged at the High Court against the companies: Sir Robert McAlpine, Balfour Beatty, BAM, Carillion, Costain, Laing, Kier Ltd, Skanska, Vinci, Taylor Woodrow and AMEC.
Carl Linkson, a 39 year-old former electrician from East Croydon is one of the litigants. Linkson said: “I first learnt about the blacklist from word of mouth. There have always been rumours, I was suspicious about it myself so it didn’t surprise me. It’s only when you get the information that you reflect on your own history. It has had an influence unbeknown to me and I did end up changing career.”
This is the first time that the Blacklisting Support Group has reached the court since their campaign began four years ago, after the profiles of 3,212 blacklisted individuals were first released.
The list was compiled by The Consulting Association and considered by 44 construction companies before they hired new employees. Eight of these companies have now agreed to set up a compensation scheme but no official offers have been made so far.
Linkson added: “Some construction firms put together a compensation scheme but, from my knowledge, they wanted to offer £1000 for each worker – it’s a piss-take really. I think it was a cynical attempt to stop people from getting the issue to court so that it doesn’t go public.”
The group litigation order accuses the companies of unlawful conspiracy. Dave Smith, leader of the Blacklist Support Group said: “This is about more than compensation. These companies have breached human rights, and data protection. These multi-national companies think that they’re above the law.”
Steve Acheson, lead claimant and chair of the Blacklist Support Group said: “I would like to see some of these [people] face prison sentences.”
Prior to the hearing, blacklisted workers protested in front of the Royal Courts of Justice and shared their own personal experiences. Vic Williams, 65, an electrician from Stevenage, said: “I was blacklisted in 1995 and didn’t realise until 2009. I was wondering why I was getting crap work at poor pay. I couldn’t get bigger contractors.”
Alan Rayner, a 71-year-old electrician from Hutton who has been blacklisted for 45 years, said: “I knew I was, but I couldn’t prove it. I was on a job and I complained about safety. Sometimes it was even silly things like complaining about toilet conditions. On another job I complained about asbestos, which is deadly.”
Another electrician, Jerry Murphy, 47, from Romford, said: “I found out I was blacklisted five or six years ago. My file said ‘don’t employ under any circumstances.’ These companies are not worried if somebody dies, so health and safety goes out of the window.”
The worker with the longest blacklisting record in the UK, Mike Abbott, 74, a scaffolder from Liverpool, said: “I’ve been blacklisted since 1964. It kept me most of the time unemployed, until I moved out of town where I was less known. I then had to go self-employed.”