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Eight major construction companies have set up a compensation fund for workers whose names appeared on a secret industry “blacklist”. The opening offer from the industry to 3,000 workers ranges from just £1,000 to as much as £100,000 per worker, according to documents seen by the Financial Times.
The construction blacklist, used by 40 of the biggest companies, was discovered in a raid by the Information Commissioner’s Office in 2009. Run by a small firm called the Consulting Association, it contained 3,219 names of workers and hundreds of environmentalists.
Its aim was to identify suspected “troublemakers” taking part in trade union activity or raising safety concerns. Many on the list say they were in effect barred from certain construction sites for years.
The Construction Workers Compensation Scheme was launched in September by eight companies including Sir Robert McAlpine, Balfour Beatty and Carillion.
The news comes at the same time as the government launches an inquiry into separate allegations of intimidation relating to the dispute at Grangemouth oil refinery in Falkirk. The move is described by the Financial Times as an escalation of Tory anti-union rhetoric in the run-up to the 2015 general election, during which Mr Cameron will accuse Ed Miliband, Labour leader, of being in the pocket of organised labour.
But according to the paper Vince Cable, the Lib Dem business secretary, insisted the exercise would also examine malpractices by “rogue” employers as well and he cited the blacklisting scandal.
Mr Cable said he wanted a “proportionate and rational” review of industrial disputes looking at tactics by “both unions and employers”.
“There are rogue unions but there are also rogue employers, some of whom have in the past engaged in illegal tactics like blacklisting,” he said. “This government will tolerate neither.”
In January 2012, an agency worker lost his case against a firm that blacklisted him for raising concerns over health and safety issues and for his active participation in a union. The Central London Employment Tribunal ruled that the construction engineer Dave Smith was not entitled to legal protection against blacklisting because he was employed through a temporary agency. It is not yet clear if Mr Smith and workers in a similar position will be eligible for compensation under the Construction Workers Compensation Scheme.