AN IRISH run firm has apologised for its role in the illegal blacklisting of construction workers as it announced it is to compensate those kept out of work for the trauma they suffered.
Laing O’Rourke and seven more of the largest construction companies involved in blacklisting are to create a scheme to compensate workers deemed to have a “legitimate claim”.
The companies, which include Sir Robert McAlpine, have all apologised for their involvement with The Consulting Association (TCA), a clandestine organisation that kept secret files on 3,200 workers.
The Irish Post revealed this year that hundreds of Irish labourers feature on the list.
The announcement follows years of campaigning by victims of TCA’s database.
Many claim they found it impossible to find work in the industry after their name was added to the database because they raised legitimate health and safety concerns.
The news was welcomed by senior politicians, trade unions, activist groups and lawyers representing blacklisted workers.
But the Blacklist Support Group criticised the firms’ “vague promise” of redress for “legitimate” claimants.
It also branded their plans “a cynical move intended to reduce corporate reputational damage”.
“We want every single person who is on the Consulting Association blacklist to be compensated and jobs guaranteed for blacklisted workers on major construction projects,” said Dave Smith, the group’s leader.
He added: “We do not for one second believe that these companies have suddenly seen the light. Most of the senior managers implicated in the blacklisting conspiracy are still in post. The only thing they regret is being caught.”
Sean Curran, a partner at the London law firm representing around 100 blacklisted workers in a High Court claim against construction companies that used TCA’s database, said his firm “cautiously welcomes” the proposal.
“We will not consent to any agreement that does not properly reflect the serious emotional and financial distress that our clients have so unjustifiably suffered,” he added.
“It is our hope that any proposal adequately reflects the injustice so inherent in the very concept of blacklisting.”
The 3,200-person TCA operated its 3,200-person blacklist for 15 years before it was raided and closed down by the Government’s information watchdog in 2009.
A statement from the firms behind the scheme said: “The companies – Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and VINCI PLC – all apologise for their involvement with The Consulting Association and the impact that its database may have had on any individual construction worker.”
Although details of the scheme are yet to emerge, the statement explained that it “is intended to make it as simple as possible for any worker with a legitimate claim to access compensation”.
The statement added: “The companies involved in the scheme would support the introduction of a code of conduct to ensure nothing like this can happen within the construction industry again.”
Chuka Umunna, Labour’s shadow business secretary, greeted the announcement as “a welcome step”.
But the Streatham MP said it was “regrettable” that only eight of the 44 companies named as having used TCA’s blacklist were involved in the scheme.
He added: “This underlines the need for a full inquiry into the blacklisting scandal to make sure it is never repeated.”