Construction firms in Wales to be barred from State contracts if they blacklist workers

Hundreds of Irish faced discrimination since the 1970s

A general view of the headquarters of the GMB Union in Euston, London.

A general view of the headquarters of the GMB Union in Euston, London.



Building firms in Wales will be barred from getting state business if they blacklist trade union activists and other workers they regard as troublesome, under new rules published yesterday by the Welsh government.

Thousands of workers, many of them Irish, are believed to have been denied work since the 1970s by scores of firms, who used a secretive organisation called the Consulting Association to track down information on people they did not want on their sites.

‘Wholly unacceptable’
“The use of blacklists is wholly unacceptable and I fully sympathise with the individuals and their families who have suffered a terrible injustice as a consequence of contractors engaging in this practice,” said the Welsh minister for finance Jane Hutt.

Welcoming the move, Mike Payne, an official with the GMB union, said blacklisting has had “devastating” consequences: “We are aware of cases that have resulted in marital breakdown, loss of home and in a couple of particularly tragic cases, people taking their own lives.”

Filed claims
The union has filed claims on behalf of 100 of its members in the high court in London against two major construction firms, Sir Robert McAlpine and Carillion, alleging that both blacklisted workers for decades.

Hundreds of Irish workers, if not more, are believed to have been discriminated against, particularly during the 1970s and the 1980s during the height of the IRA’s campaign in Britain, partly on the back of information shared by the British intelligence services.

Though it denies the charges, McAlpine has added more than 30 other major building firms, including Laing O’Rourke, as co-defendants to the legal action, which is being taken by Guney, Clark & Ryan on behalf of the workers.

Last night, one of the Guney, Clark & Ryan solicitors, Irishman Liam Dunne, said they warmly welcomed the move taken by the Welsh government, but emphasised that the legal action to redress past wrongs will go ahead.