There is a danger that the print media’s own self interested obsession with regulation and the Levenson Inquiry could drown out other substantive news. Quietly, and almost unreported by the mainstream press, the Scottish Affairs Committee in Westminster has been uncovering the most appalling scandal of workers being unlawfully blacklisted, and denied employment, often for no more than being a trade union member, or objecting to unsafe working practices on building sites.
Yesterday, Ian Kerr, who ran the Consulting Association, gave evidence. As Left Foot Forwards reports.
The activities include providing names and details of trade union members and “troublemakers” to enable corporate giants to exclude workers from employment on some of the country’s major projects.The construction projects include the Olympics site, road and rail contracts, new shopping centres, media hubs, Wembley Stadium and various other government contracts.
Mr Kerr, a former primary school teacher, told MPs the Consulting Association (CA) was set up with the aid of the Economic League - leading construction firms including Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd. The construction giant chaired the group at the beginning, according to his testimony.
Construction companies paid an annual subscription fee and records were kept by the CA which Kerr facilitated as the Association’s chief executive. …
Kerr was fined £5,000 after pleading guilty to offences under the Data Protection Act following raids on his office by the Information Commmissioner’s Office in 2009. Information was held on more than 3,000 construction workers and more than 40 contractors and companies were using Mr Kerr’s service.
During his grilling, an uncomfortable Mr Kerr – who was on £50,000 working for the Consulting Association – did admit all the information contained of each individual worker “implied criticism” of each one.
Yesterday’s evidence reveals that the blacklist was in operation during construction of the 2012 Olympics site; and that the police and security services were involved in providing information, according to the Construction Index
Ian Kerr, chief officer of the Consulting Association., confirmed to MPs today (27 November) that his organisation was involved in blacklisting on the Olympics.
Mr Kerr stated that “Robert McAlpine, Balfour Beatty and possibly Skanska” were involved in running blacklisting checks on construction workers applying for work on the Olympics.
Ucatt general secretary Steve Murphy said after the hearing: “When Ucatt gave evidence to the select committee we revealed that taxpayers money which should have been spent on building the Olympics was spent on blacklisting. Ian Kerr has revealed more major companies involved in Olympic blacklisting.”
Mr Kerr also drew light on the information supplied by the police and the security forces in the blacklisting of trade unionists. He confirmed that this information was supplied to the Consulting Association by the main contacts at the construction companies involved in blacklisting.
Mr Murphy added: “There is an urgent need for a public inquiry into the blacklisting scandal. Kerr has cast some light about how information from the police and security forces was obtained and used for blacklisting, but we need the full information, so that blacklisted workers can receive justice.”
GMB, as well as being a major trade union in the construction sector, was further drawn into the campaign against blacklisting once linkages were revealed between Carillion’s HR Director, Liz Keates, who was a major user of the blacklist, and Ms Keates’s involvement in the long running industrial dispute between GMB and Carillion at Swindon’ Great Western Hospital, where Carillion managers operated a systematic regime of extorting gold, money and other favours from predominately South Asian women workers. Carillion had been advised of these corrupt practices carried out by their supervisors in at least 2007, and had confirmed they were aware of it at Director level in 2009, but the company presided over a series of cover ups, and did not act to stop the practices until after GMB members took strike action in February 2012.
The CEO of Carillion, Richard Howson, now denies that Carillion have at any time participated in blacklisting of trade union members. In an attempt to protect the Carillion brand, he claims that the only part of the Carillion empire ever to have used the Consulting Association was a subsidiary called Crown House and that ended in 2004. That statement is not bourne out by the facts:.
A spokesperson for the Blacklist Support Group said
“Richard Howson says in his statement that it is important that people have access to information on blacklisting so that the whole industry can have a rational debate about this issue. He needs to look carefully at the facts we have set out here in this press release.
We would like to remind Richard Howson of documents that are in the public domain and statements that have been made by Carillion managers under oath in court.
That Carillion blacklisted workers was proven in 2009 when the Information Commissioners Office ( ICO) got details of the 3,213 construction workers held by the Consulting Association and used by 44 companies to keep trade union and health and safety activists off jobs.
There is clear evidence that Carillion involvement with the Consulting Association blacklist goes beyond Crown House to include Tarmac, John Mowlem, Schal International, SkyBlue Employment Agency as well as Carillion itself. There is evidence that:
· The Information Commissioners Office has specifically identified both Tarmac and Carillion as being subscribers to the Consulting Association. Carillion came into being after the demerger of Tarmac in 1999. Prior to this date Tarmac was a major subscriber to the Consulting Association blacklist. After 1999, Carillion carried on the same operations.
· The Information Commissioners Office has released hundreds of pages of un-redacted blacklist files which highlight the role played by Carillion and a number of their subsidiaries in blacklisting. Crown House is only one of those firms identified. Schal International and SkyBlue Employment Agency (both wholly owned subsidiaries of Carillion) are also specifically identified in the blacklist files. John Mowlem Ltd – now trading as Carillion (JM) Ltd is also identified. So far there is evidence that 224 workers were blacklisted by Carillion.
· The Consulting Association sales book, records and invoices show that Carillion itself was charged subscription fees, additional fees for checking names and charges for attending Consulting Association meetings between 1999 (when Carillion was set up) and 2008 (a few weeks before the Consulting Association was closed down). Between 1999 and 2006 alone, Carillion paid the Consulting Association £32,182.74 + VAT This is one of the highest amounts charged to any of the subscribing companies. Prior to 1999, Tarmac was being invoiced for these services.
· John Mowlem Limited now trading as Carillion (JM) Limited had a separate set of invoices and salesbook records.
· Carillion was charged for attending numerous Consulting Association meetings in Scotland, the North West, London and the South East region and Woodstock throughout this period. Senior managers employed directly by Carillion were attending Consulting Association meetings as late as 2008.
· The unredacted blacklist files and financial documents on many occasions identify the name or provide the initials of the senior managers who passed on information to the blacklist. This information supplied by Carillion continued to be used for blacklisting up until 2009.
· John Edwards is identified as attending Consulting Association meetings in 2008.Two individuals are identified as the “Main Contact” for Carillion. LK – this is Liz Keates. JB – this is John Ball – Head of Human Resources at Carillion in 1999
· John Blake a current senior manager for Carillion admitted collating information that appeared on a blacklist file and sending it to John Ball at Carillion Head Office whilst giving evidence during the Smith v Carillion Employment Tribunal in January 2012.
These claims about Carillion’s role in blacklisting have been put forward on numerous occasions in undisputed written witness statements and oral evidence at various Employment Tribunals. Much of the information was first exposed on Alan Wainwright’s online blog (ex-Director of Industrial Relations for Carillion who became a whistleblower)
If any of these facts were incorrect, Carillion have had every opportunity to refute them in court but have always declined to do so.
The statement presents that Liz Keates, current Head of Human Resources at Carillion Health as some kind of heroine who put a stop to the blacklisting when she found out about it. Liz Keates is not a hero of this story – Liz Keates is a serial blacklister. Un-redacted blacklist files show LK repeatedly provided information to the Consulting Association over many years. Even Richard Howson’s own statement admit that Liz Keates was “the HR manager responsible for accessing it” (the Consulting Association database).
The Blacklist Support Group politely suggest that Richard Howson checks the information he is being given before making any further statements. We will be happy to send him copies of any documents that are in the public domain. The longer Carillion deny their involvement, the bigger the scandal when the full truth is unearthed.”