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Union moves to block construction companies contacting blacklisted workers direct for compensation

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: April 15, 2014

By Anna MacTaggart

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A union is taking legal action aimed at preventing construction firms contacting workers whose names were on a blacklist to discuss compensation.

The GMB accused firms of trying to bypass negotiations by writing directly to people who were included on the secret file.

The blacklist was discovered five years ago after a raid by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on The Consulting Association, which has since been closed down. Of the 3,213 names on the list, some 98 were from across the South West. Of that number, 19 were from Devon, three from Cornwall and three from Somerset.

Information contained on the blacklist included names, address, place of work, political affiliations – including communist – and trade union membership. If individuals complained about health and safety on building sites they could also be blacklisted. Unions say it deprived them of work, although the individuals were unaware for years.

Talks over a compensation scheme have been continuing between a group of companies and unions representing construction workers. But the GMB revealed that a “secret” court order had been obtained by construction firms, giving details of more than 2,000 workers on the blacklist.

Maria Ludkin, the union’s legal officer, said: “We believe the order authorises the scheme to contact blacklisted workers without the consent of the unions and lawyers representing them.

“We want to discover how the scheme was able to obtain secret access to our blacklisted members’ details. Once we obtain a copy of the order, we will be filing an injunction application to prevent the lawyers for the compensation scheme taking any further steps using our members’ information without their consent.”

Ian Kerr of The Consulting Association, who supplied the data, was fined £5,000 for breaching the Data Protection Act. He has since died.

The GMB fought for years for the ICO to release the names in order for workers to come forward after the office claimed the move would breach the Data Protection Act.

In October last year major construction companies Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and VINCI PLC apologised for their involvement with TCA and the impact its database may have had. They were among 44 companies who had used the list. They also established the Construction Workers Compensation Scheme, to “make it as simple as possible for any worker with a legitimate claim to access compensation”.

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