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Unions hail blacklisting breakthrough

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Trade unions have claimed a significant breakthrough in a long-running legal case over alleged blacklisting in the construction industry.

It follows an admission by some of Britain's biggest construction firms that they defamed workers and infringed their rights.

Unions say hundreds of members could be in line for damages that could amount to tens of millions of pounds.

The companies have issued an unreserved apology.

Details of what trade unions call a construction industry blacklist emerged in 2009 following a raid on the premises of The Consulting Association in Droitwich by the Information Commissioner's office.

It uncovered a list of more than 3,000 names and reference cards that included allegations against workers linked to their political views, competence, trade union membership and industrial relations activities.

In a submission to the High Court the firms, which include Balfour Beatty, Carillion and Costain Group, accepted that construction companies had provided much the information and had used it to vet workers seeking employment.

Distress and anxiety

The companies accepted that the vetting information system "infringed workers' rights to confidentiality, privacy, reputation and latterly data protection".

The companies offered an "unreserved apology" for their part in operating the system, for any adverse employment consequences and for the distress and anxiety caused to workers and their families.

The Unite union said that the admissions meant hundreds of workers were now on the verge of securing damages.

Unit assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: "The admissions from the blacklisters and the damages for the blacklisted are an important step on the road to justice in righting that wrong."

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The construction union UCATT described the news as a "massive breakthrough" and "a highly significant step forward in the battle for blacklisting justice".

Maria Ludkin, GMB national officer for legal and corporate affairs, said: "The fact that the companies have acknowledged the distress and anxiety caused to workers and their families now gives us a firm basis to make sure members are given the very substantial compensation they deserve, and that the true nature of the secretive Consulting Association is known."

"Even though it has taken years of fighting in the High Court, the companies have now acknowledged that they infringed workers' rights to confidentiality, privacy, reputation and data protection, which is an important battle to have won," she added.

Despite the admissions, the firms continued to defend cases where they claimed there was no link between the vetting system and the loss of employment and where the losses being claimed were unsubstantiated.

The defendants in the case include Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Keir, Lang O'Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska and Vinci.

The case is expected to be heard in the High Court in May 2016.

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