Construction union GMB has lodged a claim at the High Court in London against several major contractors, seeking compensation for 70 of its members it says were blacklisted by the firms.
Law firm Leigh Day, acting for the union, is seeking compensation for those kept out of work as a result of what it describes as an “unlawful conspiracy by construction employers” that it says used the services of the Consulting Association.
GMB also alleges defamation by Balfour Beatty, Kier, Costain and Skanska. It says damage was caused to workers’ reputations by their presence on the blacklist, though it does not allege unlawful conspiracy against these firms.
The case represents the first time a blacklisting case has been taken to the High Court by a trade union.
A separate claim was lodged last year against Sir Robert McAlpine, with a group of workers from the Blacklist Support Group claiming around £17m.
An Information Commissioner’s Office investigation in 2009 found that Ian Kerr of Droitwich, on behalf of The Consulting Association, held details of 3,213 construction workers and traded their personal details for profit.
Lawyers from Leigh Day said they believed the number of claims would grow as those affected become aware they may have missed out on work because of their presence on blacklists.
Michael Newman, from the employment team at the firm, said Leigh Day had been contacted by over 100 members of the GMB union.
A spokesperson for Carillion said the firm had received no communication from the GMB or its solicitors in respect of proposed litigation, adding that it was a “little surprised” by the news.
“Any Carillion involvement with the Consulting Association referencing service ended by 2004… long before the practice became unlawful,” he continued.
“As you would expect, Carillion will defend itself vigorously in any litigation.”
Skanska and Kier declined to comment. All other parties have been contacted for comment.
GMB national officer for legal and corporate affairs Maria Ludkin said: “This is only the tip of the iceberg. There are nearly 3,000 other workers with claims. The ICO needs to start acting like a serious regulator and let these victims know, so that they can join this claim for damages.”
Michael Newman said: “We are absolutely confident that the High Court will find that substantial compensation and damages are due from the construction industry for what was effectively a black market in destroying workers’ reputations and job prospects.
“Not only was this database hidden, but much of the information on it was irrelevant or just plain wrong. This didn’t stop companies from trying to profit from blacklisting though, by keeping union workers off projects so they could meet project deadlines, regardless of concerns about health and safety, or working conditions.
“Workers are only now finding out about this scandalous practice, and are rightly outraged.”