Britain’s largest construction union, Unite backed calls today (Friday 13 October) by a group of 60 MPs to strip Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd of the contract for the restoration work of Big Ben and award it to a firm without a history of blacklisting.
Branding Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd’s involvement in the restoration of Big Ben as a ‘stain on democracy’, Unite said it was grossly inappropriate that a firm currently being sued for blacklisting should be awarded a multi-million pound contract to restore a national symbol of parliament and our democracy.
In 2009 the Information Commissioner raided the offices of the Consulting Association and found a blacklist of over 3,000 construction workers. Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd not only helped to found and fund the Consulting Association, but provided two of its chairs.
Unite is currently suing Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd on behalf of victims of blacklisting having already secured millions of pounds in compensation for blacklisted workers from firms involved in the Consulting Association.
Commenting Unite assistant general secretary with responsibility for legal services, Howard Beckett, said: “Unite is currently suing Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd on behalf of victims of blacklisting having forced them and other construction firms to apologise and pay compensation after our lawsuit exposed their role in blacklisting last year.
“The Elizabeth tower and Big Ben are emblematic of the nation's democracy and sense of fair play to the rest of the world. It is a stain on our democracy that a firm with a history of blacklisting and ruining lives should be awarded such a contract.
“We urge other MPs to back this call for the House of Commons and Lords Commissions to strip Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd of the contract. It is simply reprehensible that a firm that was engaged in the pernicious practice of blacklisting should be allowed to fill its coffers at the taxpayers’ expense.”
60 MPs have so far signed the early day motion tabled by Chuka Umunna MP calling for Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd to be stripped of the contract for the restoration work of Big Ben and for it to be awarded to a firm without a history of blacklisting.
For further information please contact the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065 or Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869.
Notes to editors:
The full text of the early day motion is as follows
EDM: The House of Commons and Lords Commissions and the award of the Elizabeth Tower contract to Sir Robert McAlpine
That this House disapproves of the awarding of the contract to refurbish the Elizabeth Tower (‘Big Ben’) to the construction company Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd; recalls that in 2009 the Information Commissioner raided the offices of the Consulting Association and found a blacklist of over 3000 construction workers that had been used to vet employees and unfairly deny people work; notes that Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd not only helped to found and fund the Consulting Association but provided two of its Chairs; further notes that although Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd was subject to litigation over blacklisting and admitted its guilt in 2016, not one director has ever been held to account; recognises the exceptional nature of the contract to restore Big Ben, one of our most iconic buildings and a national symbol of the Mother of Parliaments; notes Mr Speaker's comments that the chosen contractor should be one that observes the 'letter and spirit of the law' and conforms to 'the highest standards'; agrees with recent government comments that blacklisting is 'completely unacceptable'; given the exceptional symbolic national importance of Big Ben, believes that awarding the contract to Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd is inappropriate and an insult to the victims of blacklisting in the construction sector, and sends a message that firms can engage in such unacceptable practices without serious consequences; and calls on the House of Commons and Lords Commissions to rethink their decision and award the contract to another construction company that does not have a history of involvement in blacklisting.