- Odd News
Ian Kerr's firm blacklisted firms as troublemakers without their knowledge and then their work dried up
The Daily Mirror
Thousands of construction workers have been secretly blacklisted and denied jobs on building projects like the London Olympics, the Sunday People can reveal.
And many of them still do not know why they cannot find work.
Their names were passed to more than 40 construction firms including Balfour Beatty, Sir Robert McAlpine and Laing O'Rourke.
And last week it was sensationally revealed McAlpine even paid blacklister Ian Kerr's £5,000 fine and legal costs for breaching data protection laws.
The company said: "These payments represent the belief that Mr Kerr should not suffer the penalty alone."
Kerr told MPs investigating blacklisting that he went to radical bookshops and political meetings to gather information.
He said: "I would have had a file on the Socialist Workers Party. I had a file on the National Front. Any organisation that seemed to be jumping up and down about construction, it was my role to keep tabs."
Trade union activity, health and safety concerns, or standing up for colleagues was enough to get workers blacklisted. They were then branded as potential troublemakers without their knowledge and work dried up. Details did not just include work activities but also private lives and partners.
MPs have heard disturbing evidence police and intelligence services may have been involved in providing some information.
But Kerr told MPs he would only talk to them about that in private.
Now Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna says Information Commissioner Christopher Graham must pull his finger out so victims can claim compensation.
Document seized in West Midlands He wants to ensure all of the 3,213 names found in a raid on a blacklisters' premises in 2009 are contacted.
He told Mr Graham: "Livelihoods have been destroyed and families torn apart by financial stress."
The scandal came to light when the offices of the Consulting Association in Droitwich, West Mids, were swooped on three years ago. Firms paid boss Mr Kerr a £3,000 annual fee and £2.20 for each set of details on individuals before the company - which was set up in 1993 - was shut down. Documents were returned to him, but he told MPs: "After the prosecution I burned everything."
But Mr Umunna is concerned there could be thousands more victims because only 10 per cent of the paperwork was seized.
Construction union Ucatt wants a public inquiry into the scandal. General secretary Steve Murphy said: "The Consulting Association wasn't the only blacklister. We need to make it a criminal offence."
The Consulting Association is thought to have provided secret checks on workers applying for jobs on major projects including London's Jubilee Line, airport runways, hospitals, Wembley and the Millennium Dome.
Mr Umunna is quizzing ministers on whether blacklisting is going on for Crossrail, the new £16billion rail network. Crossrail Ltd said it had seen no evidence of blacklisting.
Sport minister Hugh Robertson added: "The Olympic Delivery Authority has no evidence blacklisting was used by companies working on the Olympic Park."
MPs tabled a Commons motion last week condemning "the malicious practice which denied workers employment without them being able to see or challenge information against them".
Case study 1
Electrician Frank Morris reckons he was blacklisted after raising concerns about a fellow worker being sacked from the Olympic Media Centre project in 2011.
Frank, 37, who has four kids aged under eight, said: "It has ruined my life. Before this happened I worked on every major construction project in the UK and that year I earned £67,000 before tax.
"Overnight I couldn't get a single job. We defaulted on the mortgage and lost the house and I had to go into voluntary administration. It's an injustice - you wouldn't think it could happen in this country. I've felt suicidal, there just seems no way out."
Case study 2
Electrical engineer Steve Acheson, 58, was blacklisted 12 years ago after highlighting a health and safety issue to his employers.
Steve, from Denton, Manchester, said: "I've been unemployed for 10 of the last 12 years. It makes you feel like a leper, it's abhorrent.
"Before this I had a cracking career. We had a good family life and these firms have tried their best to destroy it. It's like something from the Victorian times before trade unions existed.
"It's sickening to think the perpetrators of these human rights violations are still making huge profits while the victims are struggling like hell."