Construction News understands around 200 people have now made enquiries about a compensation scheme for blacklisted workers since its launch on 4 July.
Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci are the contractors behind the scheme to compensate workers who were part of The Consulting Association blacklists in the past.
The Construction Workers Compensation Scheme offers blacklisted workers a ‘fast track’ offer of between £4,000 and £20,000 or a second ‘full review process’ will be heard by retired High Court judge Sir Colin McKay, who presided over the Hatfield rail crash trial in 2005.
The scheme has received 200 enquiries so far. Of these, up to 70 have resulted in completed applications for compensation, Construction News understands.
On 16 July, Pinsent Masons partner Richard Slaven said around “175 people had asked for an inquiry form, and about a third of those have been completed” within the first 10 days of the scheme launch.
That number had grown to around 200 enquiries by Tuesday.
Unions have described the compensation scheme as “deeply cynical”.
Three contractors were also called before the Scottish Affairs Committee last week to give evidence on blacklisting.
Balfour Beatty UK chief executive Nick Pollard was quizzed on why the contractor would not provide the report from an internal investigation it had carried out on blacklisting.
Mr Pollard, who was the second person from Balfour Beatty to give evidence to the committee after his predecessor Mike Peasland gave evidence in March last year, said his understanding was that the firm had not provided it due to legal privilege.
However, he said he would investigate why it had not been provided, would come back to the committee in writing, and hoped “that we will be able to find a way forward”.
Vinci UK managing director Andrew Ridley-Barker was asked about his company’s investigation into blacklisting.
He said: “We undertook payments to TCA of both annual subscriptions as well as payments by usage. I am sure you are aware of the system in operation at the time. Our annual payments to TCA ranged from £3,000 to £5,000.
“On that basis, I understand that we contributed to TCA in the range – because we do not have all the contemporary records and did not uncover those during our investigation – of £48,000 and £68,000 over the duration of TCA from 1993 to 2009.”
A member of staff, who has since retired, had signed off monthly payments to TCA, he said. The former member of staff has since been interviewed about his role in dealings with TCA.
Jim McGovern MP queried Laing O’Rourke group finance and commercial director Callum Tuckett on his assertion that the firm was not aware of ongoing vetting made by subsidiary Crown House Engineering between its acquisition in 2004 and Laing O’Rourke ending its use of TCA in 2009.
Mr Tuckett said: “It is a very difficult thing for me to sit here and defend, because it is not acceptable. It is embarrassing that that was not uncovered.
“We have developed as an organisation over that time. We have very, very strong corporate governance now, and it is something which I am now proud of.
“I think that as a corporation we are proud of it, but we missed things. That is a mistake. It is one of the reasons we are actively involving ourselves in the scheme and trying to move forward.
“People have been wronged by what has been done. There is absolutely no doubt about that, and they should get reasonable reparation for that.”
Health and safety
Pamela Nash MP said the committee had looked at health and safety records on construction sites in the UK, particularly Scotland, and was “concerned that people were not getting employment if they had raised health and safety concerns”.
But the contractors emphasised the steps industry had taken to encourage health and safety reporting to improve its reputation.
Mr Tuckett said: “In the late 90s and, certainly from our perspective, in 2001 when we acquired the John Laing business, we started a behavioural approach to health and safety, much like that which had been applied in the oil and gas industry and others for some time.
“There has been quite a dramatic improvement in the health and safety performance in the construction industry over that time. It still is not good enough, because people in our industry are being hurt and are dying, unfortunately, but it is a dramatic improvement.”
Mr Ridley-Barker said Vinci receives more than 10,000 ‘close call’ and ‘positive intervention’ cards each year from its workforce.
He said: “We now work very hard to encourage all members of our team and all operatives on our projects to have confidence to put their hand up and say if there is something wrong.
“I have stood at project site meetings and spoken to all of our workforce on individual projects and given them my personal assurance that they have an absolute right to do so.”
Mr Pollard stressed the industry had learned from other sectors, such as oil and gas. “Balfour Beatty started the zero harm campaign a long time back,” he said.
“The level of injury has fallen steadily over the course of certainly the last decade. That is in line with most of the major companies in the UK.
“We have all been working in similar ways, learning from other industries, such as oil and gas or aerospace, and engaging the workforce. The whole success of that campaign has been about getting people to speak out.”
Mr Ridley-Barker admitted the scheme’s organisers should write to MPs to clarify that the scheme had been launched without union backing after MPs criticised the wording of a letter they had received.
Mr Reevell asked Grayling Public Affairs managing director Richard Jukes to read aloud the paragraph in question that he had drafted.
It said: “Following eight months of discussions with unions and workers’ representatives, the scheme has now been finalised and will open tomorrow. It will remain open for two years.”
Mr Reevell said: “Either you have… drafted something that is completely misleading and not meant to be, or some careful drafting went into this in order to create the impression in the minds of members of parliament that the unions were on board when you knew they were not.”
Mr Jukes said: “It was certainly not intended to mislead.”
Mr Ridley-Barker added: “If there has been unfortunate misleading through the interpretation of that paragraph, we will have to write and put that right to clarify the status of the negotiations.”