PILC has been asked to assist with a Unite the Union inquiry into alleged historic blacklisting.
In May 2016 Unite reached a settlement with a number of construction companies that saw 256 blacklisted workers receive a total of more than £10 million in compensation. Another trade union, the GMB, reached a similar settlement, with compensation in that case totalling around £75 million. Aside from the substantial settlements, the construction companies responsible were forced into a humiliating apology in court.
The settlement was a major victory for the Blacklist Support Group, an organisation of rank-and-file builders that has campaigned over many years to expose blacklisting in the construction industry. The Blacklist Support Group has consistently argued that industry blacklisting, though engineered by construction bosses, could not have happened without a degree of collusion on the part of trade union officials. It is alleged that officers from Unite colluded with building-industry leaders to ensure trade union militants were prevented from securing work on building sites.
It is to Unite’s credit that they have announced an inquiry into this alleged historic blacklisting. Alongside Paul Heron of PILC, Nick Randall QC of Matrix Chambers and John Carl Townsend of 33 Chancery Lane have been asked to assist with the inquiry.
In a press release, Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham said: “Under my leadership Unite is committed to uncovering the truth about allegations of union collusion with blacklisting.’’
“The workers affected and their families deserve to know the truth and I hope that this QC-led independent inquiry will get to the bottom of what really happened.”
Dave Smith, secretary of the Blacklist Support Group, commented: “Blacklisted workers have long demanded action that any investigation into union collusion in blacklisting must be completely independent from Unite and their own legal team.”
“Nick Randall QC, John Carl Townsend and the Public Interest Law Centre all have a history of championing the underdog and exposing institutional wrongdoing.’’
“The Blacklist Support Group applauds the appointment of such heavyweight and independently minded lawyers. It is a clear indication that this investigation will not turn a blind eye to any evidence that exposes an unhealthy culture within Unite or its predecessor unions.”