Union warns Information Commissioner, ‘we will see you in court’ unless ICO notifies hundreds of building workers that their names were held on unlawful blacklist


Lawyers acting for the GMB have written to the information watchdog, calling for officials to take more ‘proactive’ steps to advise hundreds of building workers whether they were named on an unlawful blacklist.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is believed to be the only institution which holds a complete copy of the names of 2,863 people held in an anti-union surveillance operation believed to have been conducted for more than a decade on behalf of 44 construction companies.

GMB says it is ‘completely unreasonable and unrealistic’ to ask every individual on the list to lodge their own formal request for information about the documents and says it will take legal action to force the ICO to act if it does not do so.

In 2009, the ICO seized a database of 3,500 construction workers which was used to vet new recruits and keep out of employment trade union and health and safety activists.

The list was compiled by the now-defunct Consulting Association.

Its director, Ian Kerr was found guilty and fined £5,000 for breaches of data protection legislation.

GMB and the civil rights group, Liberty – which has joined the union’s campaign over the blacklisting scandal – says the ICO should apply the same standards as it used in the media phone-hacking scandal and contact those on the list.

Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary (pictured, above, left), said “We expect the ICO to use his wide-ranging powers to notify those people who are on the database and take action against these companies.

“If he fails to act, we will see him in court.

”GMB intend to pull back the curtain of secrecy to reveal the way that employers like Carillion and others illegally used their power and money to blacklist citizens and to deny them their rights to employment.

”For far too long, vested interests have sought to ignore these discriminatory activities of Carillion and others. GMB is going to campaign to expose these activities.

“GMB will call on politicians to bring social justice to the victims of blacklisting by these companies.

”Carillion and others should apologise and compensate victims who have fallen foul of their illegal activities.”

Last June, GMB published a report which gave examples of how the CA’s files were used by the construction and services giant, Carillion, to target more than 200 workers.

(Pictured: map showing ‘clusters’ of trade union activists and reps under surveillance by Consulting Association. Graphic courtesy of GMB)

The GMB estimates that in one three-month period, Carillion checked 2,776 names with the Consulting Association.

It says that Carillion checked at least 14,724 names during the period from October 1999 to April 2004.

You can hear an interview with Liberty’s legal officer, Corinna Ferguson, on the next edition of The Active Voice podcast, going on-line on Monday (21 August).

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