Blacklisted site workers offered ‘cheap’ pay-offs

Eight of the firms that used the blacklist have offered between £4,000 and £20,000 – with a final decisions limited to a maximum of £100,000 – on a fast-track basis if workers can prove they suffered discrimination

Construction companies at the heart of the blacklisting scandal that saw thousands of workers secretly barred from building jobs are offering compensation “on the cheap”, MPs will be told today.

More than 3,000 workers saw their careers, and sometimes lives, ruined by secret files that documented, often incorrectly, details of political leanings and troublemaking activity.

Eight of the firms that used the blacklist, including London Olympic stadium builder Sir Robert McAlpine and listed contractor Balfour Beatty, have offered between £4,000 and £20,000 – with a final decisions limited to a maximum of £100,000 – on a fast-track basis if workers can prove they suffered discrimination.

But Justin Bowden, a national officer of the GMB union, said lawyers had advised that more than 2,000 of the workers would receive “three to five times as much” if they pursued the companies through the courts.

Some who were particularly hurt by the scandal could be entitled to £250,000 or more, lawyers have estimated.

The serious grievances claimed by workers include claims that they suffered defamation and breaches of their data protection rights. 

Mr Bowden will pass this information to the Scottish Affairs Committee, which has been running an inquiry into the scandal and how firms intend to pay recompense for using the services of blacklisting firm The Consulting Association.  “There were problems with the way the scheme was proposed [such as not including certain retraining packages for the workers],” Mr Bowden told The Independent. “But they weren’t insurmountable. The scheme is trying to do this on the cheap.”

Gail Cartmail, the assistant general secretary of Unite the Union who is also due at the hearing today, added: “We’ve now ended up with a compensation scheme being imposed on workers by the companies that blacklisted them.”

Today’s Scottish Affairs hearing comes just days after the unions and the workers won a crucial court ruling. Hundreds of separate cases going through the courts will now be heard together under what is known as a group litigation order, simplifying and speeding up the legal fight.

The Scottish Affairs Committee has been looking into how much of a problem blacklisting became north of the border. On Wednesday bosses of some of the firms involved, such as Vinci UK managing director Andrew Ridley-Barker, will also face the MPs.

Committee chairman Ian Davidson, Labour MP for Glasgow South West, said there were concerns that the compensation scheme, announced last year, appeared to be running “without much happening”.