Unite, Britain's biggest union, has described the blacklisting of construction workers as a national scandal on the scale of phone hacking and is calling for a 'Leveson style' inquiry.
The union has welcomed the forthcoming commons debate this Wednesday (23 January) on the issue of blacklisting, initiated by shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna where he will call for the information commissioner to adopt a proactive process for informing individual victims of blacklisting so that they can seek compensation.
Secret files held by an organisation called the Consulting Association on thousands of workers in the construction sector resulted in workers being denied employment after raising legitimate health and safety concerns and exercising their human rights to belong to a trade union.
More than 40 of the UK's largest construction firms have used a blacklist. Many of the workers still have no idea that they were included on the blacklist which was uncovered in a raid by the Information Commissioner's Office in 2009.
After years of denials, firms which built the Olympic park have finally admitted that they checked names of prospective workers with the illegal Consulting Association blacklist.
Ron Barron, the head of industrial relations at Crossrail, has now been sacked after it was discovered that he was a leading blacklister.
Ian Kerr, the former chairman of the the Consulting Association, has admitted having discussions with Crossrail. Frank Morris, a union representative at Crossrail was dismissed along with 27 other employees of a sub-contractor EIS and he believes the Crossrail consortium Bam Ferrovial Kier (BFK) was implicated. Both Bam and Kier are known subscribers to the CA Blacklisting services. He believes his name is on a blacklist for raising health and safety concerns at the Olympic site.
Unite believes that Crossrail has failed to look at the evidence of blacklisting on the project and has called on Transport for London to investigate possible blacklisting.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "This is a scandal on the scale of phone hacking, except it is the lives of thousands of ordinary construction workers which have been ruined. There should be a full and proper inquiry.
"Construction companies have been allowed to get away with a conspiracy to spy on thousands of ordinary construction workers and destroy their careers.
"Lives have been ruined and families have been torn apart just because workers have raised safety concerns in Britain's most dangerous industry or just because they exercised their human rights to belong to a trade union.
"The construction industry effectively had their own private Stasi style police force to spy on and blacklist workers. They even used these spies to blacklist workers for the construction of the Olympics.
"We applaud Labour's shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna for putting this issue on the political agenda - it is time for justice."
Contact Ciaran Naidoo on 07768 931 315
Notes to editors:
- An analysis of the Health and Safety Executive’s figures for workplace accidents reveals that it is the construction industry that has the worst fatal injury statistics amongst the key industries in Britain.
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.5 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.