A major UK union is claiming victory today after eight major contractors last week agreed to hand over another £4m ($5.7m) in compensation to workers who claimed their lives and careers had been ruined by an organised campaign to blacklist them.
The sums to be paid out go a considerable way to acknowledge the hurt, suffering and loss of income our members and their families have been through over many years– Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary
The union, Unite, said its late legal challenge last week resulted in the extra pay-out for 97 claimants, bringing the total compensation package for 256 workers to £10.4m ($15m).
The claims were brought against the companies Carillion, Balfour Beatty, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci.
The firms said the settlement brought to a close all the claims in the litigation.
"These construction companies wish to draw a line under this matter and continue to work together with the trade unions at national, regional and site level to ensure that the modern UK construction industry provides the highest standards of employment and HR practice for its workforce," they said in a joint statement.
Unite said today (9 May) that the pay-outs could range from £25,000 up to £200,000 per claimant, depending on such factors as the loss of income and the seriousness of the defamation.
Unite waged a five-year fight against more than 30 construction firms in total who paid in to a blacklisting database which the union said saw hundreds of workers lose jobs and have their lives ruined for carrying out legitimate trade union activities, such as campaigning for safer conditions.
At the centre of the scandal was the secretive Consulting Association which was raided by the UK Information Commissioner in 2009.
"The massive scale of the agreed damages – more than £10 million – shows the gravity of the misdeeds of these major construction companies which created and used the Consulting Group as a vehicle to enable them to blacklist trade unionists on behalf of more than 30 construction companies," said Unite general secretary Len McCluskey.
He added: "The sums to be paid out go a considerable way to acknowledge the hurt, suffering and loss of income our members and their families have been through over many years."
The Unite case centred on a number of key legal issues, including defamation, breaches of the 1988 Data Protection Act, conspiracy and misuse of private information.
Photograph: Blacklisted construction workers protest at the Houses of Parliament in 2014 (uniteresist.org)