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Unite secures £10.4m blacklist payout as all unions settle cases

Unite has settled its case against blacklisting contractors, claiming it secured an extra £4m payout last week taking the total going to its members to more than £10.4m.

Unite was the last of the unions to settle its case, after the blacklist firms reached agreement with GMB and Ucatt in April, as well as solicitor Guney, Clark & Ryan, acting for members of the Blacklist Support Group.

In total, more than £10m will be paid to 256 workers represented by Unite, with payouts ranging from £25,000 to £250,000.

Ucatt confirmed today that it had reached a settlement of £8.9m on behalf of 156 members.

GMB settled its claim against the construction industry firms for a total of £5.4m for 116 members.

The union claimed the total settlement figures would come to around £75m for 771 claimants including legal costs on both sides estimated at £25m, to be paid by the contractors.

The contractors who have reached the settlement are Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci.

Sir Robert McAlpine added co-defendants to the blacklist trial in 2013, after it was named as a defendant.

The settlement does not include Amec or Bam, both of whom were originally brought into the trial by Sir Robert McAlpine.

Between them, the 10 companies owned 33 of the 45 companies originally named as part of the blacklist operation.

Blacklisting was exposed when the offices of the Consulting Association were raided by the Information Commissioner’s Office and closed down.

The ICO found in the offices a handwritten database containing information on more than 3,000 workers.

The contractors are still subject to legal action, including from the man who blew the whistle on the use of the blacklist, which was uncovered in 2009.

Speaking on Radio 5 Live this morning, Dave Smith of the Blacklist Support Group said he had to remortgage his house as a result of being blacklisted and unable to find employment.

He said: “This is people just standing up for basic human rights… The money is nice, this is a massive victory. It has been seven years and [the contractors involved] have had to fork out money.”

But he added the campaign for recognition would continue, saying “we are going to hound these people until we get them to account for their actions in court”.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “The massive scale of the agreed damages shows the gravity of the misdeeds of these major construction companies which created and used the Consulting Group as a vehicle to enable them to blacklist trade unionists on behalf of more than 30 construction companies.

“The sums to be paid out go a considerable way to acknowledge the hurt, suffering and loss of income our members and their families have been through over many years.”

He added that under the agreement the workers could “once more apply for jobs in the construction industry without fear of discrimination”.

“The message is clear that there can never be any hiding place for bosses in the construction and any other industry thinking of reverting to shameful blacklisting practices against committed trade unionists.”

The Unite case centred on legal issues including defamation, breaches of the 1988 Data Protection Act, conspiracy and misuse of private information.

A spokeswoman for the contractors said: “In October 2015, the construction companies – unlike any other companies involved in the vetting system – spontaneously and openly acknowledged that the system was unlawful in various respects and made a full public apology, which was widely reported at the time.

“Unite, Ucatt, GMB and GCR have now all accepted this public apology.”

She added: “These construction companies wish to draw a line under this matter and continue to work together with the trade unions at national, regional and site level to ensure that the modern UK construction industry provides the highest standards of employment and HR practice for its workforce.”

GMB witness statements to the High Court:

Witness A’s wife said: “Blacklisting stopped us having a family. We had our daughter in 1986, but this was much later than we wanted to. We had planned to have more children but without my husband being in work we couldn’t afford to.”

Witness B said: “When I was being refused work, or told there were no starts, I felt despair at not being protected because I was a safety rep. I thought the law would protect me in a situation like that. It was so frustrating sending out CVs and getting no responses. I felt like I was banging my head against a brick wall.”

Witness C said: “People thought I did not want to work, which was not the case and as a result I became more reclusive and felt left out. My brother thought I wasn’t working because I did not want to, rather than I could not get a job. He started looking at me a different way, as if he was thinking “haven’t you got a job yet?”…  I felt I was an embarrassment to my brother.”

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