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Leeds construction workers demand action in blacklist protest

By Alex Smith

CONSTRUCTION WORKERS in Leeds took to the streets in protest today as part of a national day of action against the outlawed practice of blacklisting.

Blacklisting was a method used by construction contractors to keep workers out of work if they raised issues with the workplace, or organised in protest.

The protest took place outside the Majestic building in Leeds City Square on December 6th.

In the past the big construction firms were linked with the Consulting Association, the secretive organisation which maintained the blacklist before it was shut down in 2009 following an investigation.

A settlement of £10 million in compensation was reached that year after a legal battle between Unite the Union and construction firms.

Mark Martin, regional officer for Unite Construction, said: “The aim is to get a full public inquiry into what went on.

“We want laws to make blacklisting a criminal offence. We want any company found guilty of using blacklisting in the past to be banned from bidding for public sector contracts in the future.”

Mr Martin was also concerned that blacklisting may still be going on.

He added: “It was done secretly in the past, and the implication is still there. They’re not going to tell you that you’ve been blacklisted, but they may say there’s no work for you today.”

Leeds has been chosen by Unite because the Majestic site is managed by Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd.

John Coan, community co-ordinator for Unite in Yorkshire and the North East, said: “Our community members with Unite have been out supporting all of these actions across the UK. We have always been behind members of the construction industry in fighting the evils of blacklisting.”

Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd said that they have zero-tolerance towards blacklisting, and that they expect their subcontractors to comply. However they did admit to past involvement in the practice.

It said: “Most of the largest British construction companies in operation today were involved in the past when there was no legislation in place to outlaw the practice.  Sir Robert McAlpine has admitted to, and apologised for, it’s past involvement and has paid compensation to affected workers.”

A Government spokesperson said:“Blacklisting is illegal and has absolutely no place in the modern workplace. We already have strong laws in place to ensure that anyone found exploiting personal sensitive data for blacklisting or otherwise faces the full force of the law.

“We are not aware of any substantive evidence of blacklisting happening since regulation was introduced in 2010.”


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