Builder union blacklist victory over bosses

Councillor Lawrence Hunt
Councillor Lawrence Hunt

WIGAN tradesmen are celebrating after a union victory against blacklisting which robbed them of jobs.

In the first major pay-out, more than 70 past and present workers including a number across the borough, are to be paid a share of a £5,6m compensation pot paid by guilty construction firms.

Skilled manual workers such as bricklayers and carpenters were denied jobs on building sites across the region after being branded as trouble-makers for raising legitimate health and safety grievances in an industry with an appalling record for injuries and fatalities.

Bosses compiled a secret list of workers which then resulted in them being shunned from contract to contract when they tried to enrol.

Some building workers which found themselves on the list now decades old have never worked in the industry again.

Payouts average £80,000 each, but the union of construction workers, Ucatt, said the announcement was only the “first” significant milestone in a campaign backed by the union movement.

In November’s full Wigan council meeting, Coun Lol Hunt spoke out passionately in support of a Labour motion guaranteeing that only firms that don’t use blacklists be allowed to tender for town hall building contracts.

He said that although the size of compensation award generated headlines, it was modest when considered against the “potentially years and years of lost earnings” faced by such building workers.

He said: “There will be no popping of champagne corks because of the number of lives these blacklists have destroyed, the family breakdowns they have caused and the huge debts that workers have run up because they were illegally stopped from working.

“One of the most despicable aspects is that at the time workers who were fighting to prevent deaths of sites were viciously targeted.”

Union Ucatt is now seeking similar payments for another 90 workers for breach of confidence and misuse of private information, breach of the Data Protection Act, defamation and loss of earnings.

All victims were named on a list of more than 3,200 workers maintained by the right-wing Consulting Association which was finally closed down seven years ago.

Construction giants Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine and Skanska UK have now apologised for the “anxiety and distress.”