Union slams Big Ben refurbishment contract handed to blacklisting firm Sir Robert McApline

Union protests at £29 million public contract award to blacklisting firm Sir Robert McApline

GMB, the union for construction workers, has voiced opposition to the awarding of a contract to refurbish Big Ben, to Sir Robert McAlpine Limited, the company at the heart of blacklisting scandal in the construction industry.

Victims of blacklisting by the construction industry, who were awarded a £75m out-of-court settlement in 2016, have demanded a police investigation into their claims that key executives tried to pervert the course of justice.

The blacklisting scandal came to light in 2009 following a raid by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on an organisation called The Consulting Association based in Worcestershire.

It uncovered a list of more than 3,000 workers – which in some instances also included details of personal relationships, political views and trade union activities.

The companies implicated – including Sir Robert McAlpine and Balfour Beatty – agreed to pay sums ranging from £25,000 to £200,000 to 771 people under out-of-court settlements to avoid a trial, while accepting that “their secret vetting operation should never have happened”.

A debate on contemporary blacklisting of union members by major construction companies is debated in Parliament today (Tuesday 5 September), led by Chuka Umunna MP.

GMB continues to call for a public inquiry into blacklisting – and action to tackle new cases of abuse.

Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary said: “This is a company that hid from its victims, the justice system and from parliamentary scrutiny for years. To see it being rewarded with a public contract to refurbish Big Ben adds insult to injury for GMB members who have seen themselves and their families suffer as a result of the disgraceful practice of blacklisting.

“Never mind whether the bell tolls, blacklisting was and still is an affront to democracy. To have those implicated standing to benefit from public procurement contract at the heart of the UK Parliament is an absolute scandal.

“Government must never forget this sordid episode – this contract should never have been awarded and should now be cancelled.”


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