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Balfour Beatty in blacklisting tribunal

Balfour Beatty faced London’s Employment Tribunal this week in the first blacklisting case to be tried since the furore broke last year.

Balfour Beatty Building - which is no longer actively trading, but is still part of the construction group - was brought to tribunal by wellknown Ucatt activist and London regional official Michael Dooley.

It follows an Information Commissioner’s Office probe, which revealed that several UK contractors had been using an unlawful database that allowed them to vet their labour supply.

Mr Dooley claimed Balfour Beatty Building had dismissed him from a site in Victoria, south London in 1993, because of information held about him on the blacklist.

But Balfour Beatty denied it had ever employed Mr Dooley, saying he had been employed by a subcontractor at the site.

It also claimed he should not be protected under the Trade Union Act because of his past behaviour, which included the hijacking of at least one tower crane.

The four-day hearing was scheduled to finish today, following which the tribunal could either hand down its decision
immediately or reserve judgement to be announced at a later date.

Balfour Beatty was one of the biggest names caught up in the construction blacklisting scandal. A total of 14 firms - six of which were divisions of Balfour Beatty - were issued with enforcement notices by the ICO for subscribing
to the Consulting Association database.

But Balfour Beatty, which maintains it “does not condone the use of blacklists”, told the tribunal it owed nothing to Mr Dooley.

During witness evidence, Balfour Beatty counsel Jane McCafferty said: “It is likely that if a decision was taken to dismiss him it would have been for his hijacking of cranes.”

She added: “These are not activities of a trade unionist… so any compensation should be reduced to zero.”

Mr Dooley, who ran for election as Ucatt general secretary last year, claimed he had been dismissed from the site after only 10 days’ employment in September 1993. He is claiming £35,000 from the construction giant, plus further damages.

The Consulting Association blacklist, on which Mr Dooley is named, provided private information about more than
3,000 construction workers to contractors.

According to paperwork from the association, Balfour Beatty and its subsidiaries were invoiced for about £9,000 of searches throughout 2008, before the database was shut down by the ICO.

A spokeswoman said: “Balfour Beatty does not condone the use of blacklists in any circumstances and has taken steps to ensure that none of our companies use such services.”

The case continues under tribunal chairman Brian Charlton. It has been seen as a test case for blacklisted employees, and several more claims could follow, particularly if Mr Dooley is successful.