GMB members take Carillion dispute to Southmead Hospital

southmead Carillion GMB protest

GMB members, in dispute with Carillion at Great Western PFI Hospital in Swindon since December 2011, today demonstrated at Southmead Hospital in Bristol over the on-going dispute and blacklisting by Carillion.

150 GMB members employed by Carillion at Swindon have taken 21 days of strike action over the persistent failure of the Carillion management to deal with evidence of bribery and corruption on the contract which was covered up for some years. The matter is now before an Employment Tribunal following the failure of talks at ACAS to resolve the dispute.  

These same members will be protesting outside RIBA for Guardian Sustainability awards in London 16th May from 12:30pm. Last month it was announced that Carillion has been shortlisted in the Society category for the Guardian Sustainable Business Awards 2013 with its entry on the Southmead Hospital redevelopment project in Bristol.

Carolle Vallelly, GMB Regional Officer, said “GMB is nowhere near resolving the dispute at Swindon or reaching a settlement on blacklisting. In fact the dispute between Carillion and GMB is set to widen as Carillion ignores TUC guidelines for dealing with trades unions in hospitals covered by PFI schemes in other parts of the UK. Carillion has got to come to terms with what their managers have done to workers in Swindon and to the workers they blacklisted. There is not much use just making apologies. They have to accept what they did was wrong and then take steps to put it right. Until this happens there will be no end to this dispute.

Ms Vallelly added “For Carillion to be shortlisted for any award, given the sheer hypocrisy at the heart of the company, is appalling. GMB is examining various ways of conveying this to MPs when the company parades its spurious credentials at a reception in Parliament next week.”

Guardian Sustainable Business Awards honouring blacklist company

Protest at CarillionReaders who have been following the saga of the GMB’s industrial campaign against Carillion at Swindon’s Great Western Hospital will know that the company failed to act for years while supervisors shook down staff for gold and cash in exchange for their employment rights. Readers will also know that Carillion have been involved in the unlawful blacklisting of individuals in the construction industry, and that the blacklist also included environmental activists. In response to the exposure of the extortion by supervisors, Carillion’s response was to discipline ten whistle-blowers; and Carillion’s report included institutionaly racist language claiming that the mainly South Asian staff were difficult to manage becasue they were overly emotional and given to crying.

It is therefore extraordinary that the Guardian has shortlisted Carillion for a sustainable business award.

You might want to contact the judges via twitter, and send them the following links, and seek clarification why they think it appropriate to honour a company that failed to properly investigate claims of extortion by supervisors for years, that exhibits institutional racism, that participated in an unlawful blacklist and victimises whistle blowers.

Guardian article on Carillion and blacklisting (copy this URL to twitter: http://tinyurl.com/buklbu4  )
Guardian article on racial bias and discrimination (copy this URL to twitter: http://tinyurl.com/cgq2ykz  )
Guardian article on blacklisting of environmental activists (copy this URL to twitter: http://tinyurl.com/cfr4tpf  )
Left Futures article on Carillion victimizing whistle blowers (copy this URL to twitter: http://tinyurl.com/d2fm5sa  )

This is The Guardian Sustainable Business twitter account: @GuardianSustBiz

and these are the judges:
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Parliamentary Report into Blacklisting: the Scandal Grows

Paul-Kenny-and-blacklist-support-groupToday saw publication of the interim parliamentary report on blacklisting by the Scottish Select Affairs Committee. In its statement released today, the committee says that the major construction firms that established and funded a systematic blacklist of construction industry workers appear to be continuing to avoid taking full responsibility for their actions.

The report is utterly damning, and the committee says that while the blacklist was not initially illegal, it was always morally indefensible, and the companies involved continued to use it after it had become illegal. The companies involved included some of the biggest names in construction but also many smaller firms. The organisation set up to create, maintain and operate the blacklist – the Consulting Association (TCA) – appears to have been largely established by Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, which also provided TCA’s Chairmen for eight of its 16 years of operation. Other major subscribers included Carillion, Skanska and Balfour Beatty.

Information given by Ian Kerr, who ran the Consulting Association, to the Scottish Select Affairs Committee revealed that the organisation functioned in secret, with a senior HR representative of each of the 44 building firms acting as the key contact. These contacts provided the information to Mr Kerr which was used to build a database of information about thousands of workers in the industry. The same contacts also contacted the Consulting Association when they were seeking to hire, at which point they faxed through a list of names, which Kerr would check against the database, and then he would phone through to the contact and read out the information on the cards, for any names he matched. In an average year there would be between 38,000 and 40,000 names referred by member companies.
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Blacklisting: the Civil Liberties Scandal That Grows and Grows

Saturday’s Daily Mirror reported the shocking fact that environmental campaigners have been listed alongside construction workers on the notorious blacklist illegally maintained by the Consulting Association, on behalf of big building firms like Carillion, Balfour Beatty and MacAlpines.

Eco-warrior Tamsin Omond was kept under surveillance and put on a scandalous construction blacklist alongside thousands of workers.

She said last night it was outrageous that she had been snooped on just for being a green campaigner. Tamsin, 28, was one of 240 women who appeared on the 3,213-name list of “troublemakers”. She was unaware she was on the file until the Mirror tracked her down on a trip to India and broke the news.

Tamsin, who was convicted of trespassing at Parliament in 2008 during a protest against expansion at Heathrow airport, said: “Gathering information on environmental activists seems to be incredibly paranoid.” Londoner Tamsin, one of Britain’s leading green campaigners, added: “It’s a massive infringement of rights. “You’d expect global capitalists to infringe workers’ rights but it will be terrible if there’s involvement from our public services such as the police.”

The Morning Star reports that suspicion of police involvement may be well founded:

London’s Metropolitan Police is to conduct a major investigation into allegations that it colluded with the blacklisting of construction workers… The investigation by the Force’s Directorate of Professional Standards’ (DPS), which is to be supervised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission, follows mounting evidence that both the police and the security forces may have provided information for a blacklist run by the Consulting Association.

The issue first came to light in January 2012 when Information Commissioner’s Office head of investigations David Clancy – who led a raid on the association’s offices in 2009 which discovered a database with details of thousands of individuals – told an employment tribunal that “information on some of the blacklist files could only have come from the police or the security services.”

Mr Clancy repeated the assertion in evidence to the Scottish affairs select committee investigation into blacklisting. The claims of collusion are to be probed as part of Operation Herne, an ongoing investigation into the activities of the Special Demonstration Squad, a deep undercover section of Special Branch. The investigation has been set up as a result of a complaint by the Blacklist Support Group.

The Met DPS originally refused to investigate the complaint, but was forced into a U-turn after a successful appeal to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) by solicitors Christian Khan. Partner at Christian Khan Sarah McSherry said the IPCC’s decision to uphold the appeal was in stark contrast to the original DPS view that “the complaints process is not the correct vehicle to forward their concerns or allegations.” She said they would be making further representations to the IPCC arguing that, “given the seriousness of the allegations of widespread corruption and criminal behaviour on the part of Metropolitan Police officers, the DPS should have no involvement in the investigation of this complaint.”

Dave Smith of the Blacklist Support Group added: “We want to know why information collected by the police has ended up on a secret blacklist of trade unionists operated by multinational companies. “If police collusion is proven, at best it is individual corruption. At worst it is systematic state involvement in a major human rights conspiracy.”

Dave Smith himself is back in court tomorrow, seeking justice from Carillion over his inclusion on the blacklist, when the Employment Appeal Tribunal is holding a Permission Hearing. Mr Smith took a case against these three Carillion companies to Employment Tribunal in London in January 2012. In the judgment in March 2012 (Case no 1310709/2009) the judge said “It seems to us that he has suffered a genuine injustice and we greatly regret that the law provides him with no remedy”.

This was because he lost the case on the technical point that he was not directly employed by Carillion who blacklisted him but was “employed” by an employment agency. Tomorrow’s hearing arises from this case.

“I have not had an apology or one penny compensation from Carillion who kept me out of work costing me and my family hundreds of thousands in lost wages and I want justice from the courts”, says Dave Smith.

It is worth examining in particular the case of Carillion, as this is a company deeply embedded into public services provision, for the NHS and councils. The culture within the company of disregard for the rule of law is especially concerning as so much public money is siphoned off to them.

Carillion’s involvement with blacklisting came to light when in 2009 the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) seized a database of 3,213 construction workers used by 44 companies to vet new recruits and keep out of employment trade union and health and safety activists. The ICO confirmed that Dave Smith was one of 224 construction workers from around the UK were victims of blacklisting by Carillion. These names, on the files of the blacklisting body The Consulting Association, were released in the course of the Dave Smith’s employment tribunal.

There is evidence from the Information Commissioner that Carillion involvement with the Consulting Association blacklist included parts of their organization such as Crown House, Schal International, SkyBlue Employment Agency, Tarmac and John Mowlem as well as Carillion itself.

The following Carillion managers were named at the Scottish Affairs Committee as being involved in the operation of the blacklist: Frank Duggan: group personnel director for Carillion plc; Kevin Gorman: former human resources manager for Carillion’s Crown House division; Liz Keates: head of human resouces at Carillion; Sandy Palmer: NCS and Dave Aspinall: NCS (Carillion’s in-house employment agency); John Ball: head of human resources at Carillion; Roger Robinson and Brian Tock: two managing directors of Crown House; John Edwards from Carillion is identified as attending Consulting Association meetings in 2008.

Blacklisting by Carillion was not something rare. GMB estimates that in one quarter that Carillion checked 2,776 names with the Consulting Association and in the period from October 1999 to April 2004 it estimates that Carillion checked at least 14,724 names. This makes it one of the bigger users.

Carillion managers named and shamed for blacklisting

It is important to understand that the practice of providing and compiling evidence for an illegal blacklist that was then used to deny thousands of workers from gainful employment was not just a corporate malpractice. It require the active participation of individuals in the corporations, particularly from their HR departments.

Keith Ewing, professor of Public Law at King’s College, London, has described the blacklist as ‘the worst human rights abuse in relation to workers’ in the UK in 50 years.

As Pete Murray reports at Union News:

Anti-blacklisting campaigners have filed the first ever complaint of its kind to the professional body for HR officers.

The Blacklist Support Group, which lodged the complaint, accuses five individuals of serious professional misconduct of ‘actively participating’ in an illegal exercise to blacklist trade union activists in the construction industry.

It comes just days after the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development adopted a new code of conduct for its members.

The complaint names two HR managers at Balfour Beatty, Gerry Harvey and Elaine Gallagher; as well as Carillion managers, Liz Keates and John Edwards; and a former head of HR at Sir Robert McAlpine, David Cochrane.

According to the Blacklist Support Group, the five ‘either attended meetings or covertly supplied personal data on trade union members to the secret blacklist which was used to systematically deny work to 3200 individuals.’

A GMB report published in June reveals that in a Carillion blacklisting case in Manchester Employment Tribunal in March 2012 (Case No 2405634/09) Mr Wainright an ex-Carillion HR manager said in his witness statement “In my opinion a blacklist is a list of people (held by a third party or exchanged between companies) that a company or group of companies would not employ for reasons that they cannot legal or lawfully keep on their personnel files, databases or records. I first became aware of blacklisting in 1997 when I was employed by Carillion Plc. I was told by Mr Gorman, Crown House HR manager that Carillion used the services of an external consultant called Ian Kerr to ensure that certain workers did not gain employment on their projects. Mr Gorman went on to explain that Mr Kerr provided this service to a number of other high profile companies and had collated a list of names from each of these companies over a period with a view to ensuring that those on the lists did not gain employment with other companies.”