15 August 2012
The Information Commissioner is coming under renewed pressure to notify potential victims of a construction industry blacklist, as a second legal action is considered in an effort to disclose the names of those targeted by construction industry giants.
Law firm Leigh Day & Co, instructed by the GMB Union is asking the information commissioner’s office (ICO) to alert people that they have been placed on the blacklist which was run by a firm which called itself The Consulting Association.
The Consulting Association received subscriptions from 42 of the UK's biggest construction companies for keeping records of individuals, predominantly trade unionists, who had raised concerns about pay, conditions or other health and safety related matters with their employer, or at the construction sites, if they were employed via an agency.
Individuals who subscribed to the organisation could request information on individuals who applied to them for work or who were suggested to them by employment agencies, supplying workers within the construction trade.
For a fee, the individual construction company could pay to have the details searched for the named individual amongst the data held. If the information that was returned suggested that the individual had taken any action that was detrimental then employment would be refused.
A range of codes were also used to suggest employment be refused. The information was often incorrect. Even where correct employment was refused for reasons such as reporting to the employer that the toilet facilities were inadequate, or that worker health and safety maybe at risk. Often petty things led to a workers inclusion on the list.
In 2009 the Consulting Association’s offices were raided by the ICO and unlawful data was removed. However, the only action taken was to fine the owner, Ian Kerr, who had pleaded guilty to breaking data protection laws, £5,000 in July 2009.
The Information Commissioner has however not taken any further action.
The latest legal bid, on behalf of the GMB union whose members were included on the list, seeks to ensure that everyone on the list is aware of their inclusion so that that they be allowed to take action against this illegal activity.
On Monday (30 July 2012) it was reported that 86 workers had launched a High Court claim against Sir Robert McAlpine, claiming it was involved in the blacklisting of its workers via the Consulting Association.
Chris Benson, Partner in Leigh Day & Co who is coordinating the legal actions said:
“We believe there are approximately 2800 people on the blacklist who still don't know their names are on it, workers whose lives and careers have been blighted by this illegal practice. The information commissioner should be far more proactive and make people aware that their names have been included in this list rather than wait for victims to contact them.
“The ICO has this information at their disposal and needs to ensure that those who may have been out of work for many years and never realised why, are told about their inclusion on this list and be enabled to do something about it.”
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