Blacklisted workers and NHS staff challenge construction companies


When it was revealed earlier this year that the police or security services participated in the illegal blacklisting of workers, it came as no surprise. Neither did the revelation that the blacklist was even more systematic and widespread than first reported, nor that there is a secret industrial action, mainly by south Indian NHS cleaning staff who have been campaigning against racist bullying by Carillion management at the Great Western Hospital. GMB members staged two 12 day strikes over the bullying, harassment and discrimination. This follows the initiation by unions, in February, of a second front against Carillion: threats to withdraw investments from its parent company, Semperian. The RMT has warned that it will take its pension money out of Semperian, the company that sub-contracts Carillion’s work, unless the dispute is resolved.

Another blacklisted worker, Steve Acheson, is taking a claim against Dimension Data for blacklisting him from the Holford Gas Terminal construction project. His case will be one of the first ever taken under the new blacklisting regulations, which were introduced in the last days of the previous Labour government in response to the Consulting Association scandal. The regulations were heavily criticised by a wide range of groups, including legal experts, as being too weak to protect workers, which means this case will be key to how future cases will turn out.

The blacklisting revelations have been beneficial to struggles in the construction industry, as seven of the UK’s largest contractors suffered a huge defeat in their attempt to unilaterally abolish the collective agreement for electrical and mechanical construction workers, the Joint Industry Board, and replace it with another, the Building Engineering Services National Agreement (BESNA). The change would have represented a 35% pay cut for some workers. Sustained rank-and-file direct action succeeded in forcing unions into supporting the struggle and forced the contractors to back down in 2011. This year looks set to be a another of rank-and-file action in the construction industry.