For more than three decades some of the the country’s top construction firms cooperated in a system of blacklisting.
A secret database of thousands of construction workers, funded by the industry and managed by a company called The Consulting Association, acted as a vetting service. When people applied or started work on building sites their name would be sent to The Consulting Association and files checked for a match.
Blacklisting was a secret tool used by companies to keep out workers they didn’t want to employ. Those with files were often union members who had raised health-and-safety concerns. There had been rumours about blacklisting for years but it wasn’t until the files of The Consulting Association were uncovered in 2009 that the scale of the practice was revealed.
In April 2016 Unite secured a settlement of more than £10m for 256 workers.
One of those workers, who has asked to remain anonymous, talks about the impact blacklisting had on his life:
“I got into bricklaying when I came out the Navy. My realisation of the unfairness of the building industry came on a site in Acton, where I was the union rep. I was unfairly sacked but a tribunal ruled I should be reinstated. I was then transferred to a site in the city, where I was made to work in a basement swimming in water and with water running down the walls. With a new-born I couldn’t just walk away but eventually I became quite ill with a chest infection and they got their way.
“I then went from job to job. Sometimes you’d last an hour, sometimes a day, maybe a week. I realised there must be a list somewhere with my name on it. The Inland Revenue criteria for who is employed and who is self-employed at that time clearly stated I was employed, so I would ask for a week’s money in lieu of notice and would eventually get it, with the help of my Union.
“My wife went back to Australia with the kiddie, thinking I didn’t want to work or that I wasn’t much of a brickie. You cannot put a price on not seeing your child grow up. It hurts.
“Throughout bricklaying there is a culture of intimidation. Foreman and charge hands screaming at you, under the protection of minders. I was put on this list because I had the courage to speak up.
“It got to the point where I went abroad to work: Germany. I was in Germany a long time only coming back from time to time, which resulted in another relationship break-up. I then went to Ireland. It cannot be right that you have to go abroad to work because you stood up for what is right.”