Solicitors have served a claim on behalf of 86 claimants, but campaigners believe hundreds more could come forward if case is successful
(Pictured: GMB general secretary Paul Kenny with anti-blacklisting campaigners, Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival, July 2012)
Solicitors served a claim on behalf of 86 claimants for “Tort of unlawful conspiracy” at the High Court last week.
The claimants are part of the Blacklist Support Group, a network campaigning on behalf of construction workers illegally blacklisted because of their trade union activities by major building contractors as part of the Consulting Association scandal first exposed in 2009.
Steve Kelly, electrician & spokesperson for the group said: “I was blacklisted because I was a union member and because I raised issues about safety.
“In 2007, McAlpine sacked me from the Colchester Barracks project after 2 days for refusing to work on a moving platform without proper training, but exactly as we had been instructed in the site induction.
“Over the years, I suffered severe financial strain. My wages were cut in half which caused immense stress paying bills and putting food on table. I was out of work for a year apart from few weeks here and there in 2001.
“Being sacked from Colchester Barracks after only 2 days piled up the stress and caused a nervous break down for me eventually.”
The claim targets Sir Robert McAlpine as the company with the worst record of blacklisting, the last invoice issued to them by the Consulting Association was in excess of £28,000 for the use of the blacklisting service.
However, campaigners say the conspiracy charge means McAlpine would also be responsible for the actions of the other more than forty other contractors such as Carillion, Balfour Beatty, Skanska which they say systematically blacklisted workers simply for being members of a trade union.
Many of the claimants were repeatedly dismissed from major construction projects and in some cases suffered years of unemployment because of their union activities or for raising concerns about safety on building sites.
It is believed that the larger claims are in the region of £300,000 for loss of earnings and hurt to feelings.
The average claim has been estimated at £20,000 per person, which values the current cases in excess of £17m.
As this is the first wave of claimants, out of a possible 3200 blacklisted workers, the total pay-outs the building firms could face exceeds £600million.
The blacklisted workers are being represented in the High Court by Sir Hugh Tomlinson QC: celebrity barrister to the stars in the News of the World phone hacking cases.
Mick Abbott, 74 year old ex-scaffolder said: “This nearly ruined my marriage and it meant that my children were on free meals at school.
“My file goes back to 1964 and the last entry says that I rekindled the campaign for justice for the Shrewsbury picketers in 2006.
“They have been watching me all these years and passing this information around, blighting my life over four decades.”
Campaigners hope the legal action will do more than just secure compensation for years of lost earnings.
Says Steve Kelly:”The blacklisting firms should be made to pay compensation for years lost and years in future.
“They should be made to employ blacklisted workers or not be awarded any public government backed contracts.
“An apology in national press and to individuals whose lives they ruined would be a start.”
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