If you work in the construction industry then you’ll no doubt be aware of The Consulting Association. Their blacklist has had a terrible effect on plenty of construction workers who have found themselves inexplicably unable to find work for years on end. Now that the list has been public for some time, construction workers can find out if they have been blacklisted. If they have, where does that put them from a legal point of view?
What is the Consulting Association list?
In 2009 data was seized from a business called The Consulting Association.
This TCA had maintained a database of British construction workers who were active trade union members, had made previous complaints about health and safety violations by employers or who might otherwise be considered “trouble makers” for employers.
In total 44 construction firms had paid to access the information which had been supplied by construction companies themselves and the police. It’s a massive scandal in the construction industry and plenty believe it should be in the spotlight. Of course, it affects those who are on the list more than anyone, so what can you do if you discover you’ve been blacklisted?
How do you know if you’re on it?
If you’re reading this article you may well already suspect your inclusion on the list. If you’re a trade union member or have ever raised a health and safety issue whilst in employment, you unfortunately may have been marked for your responsible actions.
If you keep getting turned down for jobs in the construction industry, but can’t figure out why, then you may well be on the list. A classic sign is if a person is given a job and then the employer suddenly changes their tune after receiving references. It is only at this stage that they might have looked at the list and then seen your name which explains a sudden turn around.
The ICO have set up a specific helpline which you can call to check whether you’ve been blacklisted. You can call their helpline on 0303 123 1113 between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday. Leave your name and a contact number and you’ll get a call back as soon as possible to let you know if you’re on it or not.
The ICO are also writing to those who they can gather enough information about. Sometimes they only have partial information and won’t have an address or enough to tell exactly who you are just from a name; in this case it’s difficult for them to contact you.
Since they do not have enough information to identify everyone, if you are a trade union member or have raised health and safety concerns and work in the construction industry it’s a good idea to call the helpline just to make sure you’re not on the list.
What are your rights?
Once the ICO have confirmed that you are on the list (you will have to supply them with proof of your identity) then it would be a good idea to contact a legal professional. If it turns out you’ve been turned down employment because of your inclusion on the list then you may be able to make a claim at an Employment Tribunal. However, you can only make a claim if you were discriminated within three months of making the claim unless you can prove exceptional circumstances.
Some construction companies are offering compensation, but UCATT have criticised the schemes currently being offered as “a travesty of justice”. Currently, the situation for those workers who have been detrimentally affected by the black list isn’t great as it’s easy for their claims to be dismissed by an Employment Tribunal.
UCATT have taken the campaign to Europe under the human rights act and expect to hear if they are successful by the end of this year. There are some groups who are fighting hard to get justice. The Blacklist Support Group, for example, have recently attempted to serve a Citizen’s Arrest Warrant  on Callum McAlpine, who was the first chair of the Consulting Association.
If you do think you might be on the list it’s best to get in contact with both your union and a legal professional to get advice on what your options may be.
Written by Catherine at Sheffield-based solicitors Simpson, Sissons and Brooke.