The construction and services giant Carillion received a blow yesterday at the Employment Appeal Tribunal when Mr Justice Singh found that the case of blacklisted UCATT safety rep, Dave Smith, raised questions of wide public significance and therefore allowed an appeal in a two day contested hearing probably in spring or early summer. Frank Morris, another blacklisted worker, has his first day in court at London central Employment Tribunal later today
Dave Smith took a case against three Carillion owned companies to Employment Tribunal in London in January 2012. In the judgment in March 2012 (Case no 1310709/2009) the judge said “It seems to us that he has suffered a genuine injustice and we greatly regret that the law provides him with no remedy”. This was because he lost the case on the technical point that he was not directly employed by Carillion who blacklisted him but was “employed” by an employment agency. Mr Smith is now able to appeal this.
“I have not had an apology or one penny compensation from Carillion who kept me out of work costing me and my family hundreds of thousands in lost wages and I want justice from the courts”, says Dave Smith.
During his original Employment Tribunal hearing Dave Smith gained admissions of the involvement of Liz Keates, HR Director for Carillion, with the blacklist; and it was Liz Keates who advised GMB representatives in February 2012 that Carillion would not be upholding any part of anyone’s grievance at Swindon’s Great Western Hospital, after 109 staff had given strong evidence of supervisor racism and bullying, and a number of staff had given testimony of extortion and shake downs by white supervisors and managers from their non-white staff. Ms Keates said that “there was no evidence”; disregarding the testimony of Carillion’s own staff.
Strike action by GMB members caused Carillion to conduct a more thorough inquiry, where over 130 staff gave evidence, and ten staff – later victimized for whistle-blowing by Carillion – gave personal testimony that cash or goods had been extorted from them by Carillion supervisors. No Carillion supervisor has faced any disciplinary sanction, and in a revealing letter to the GWH NHS trust dated 22nd November 2012, from Carillion’s most senior manager at GWH, Ms Gemma Lynch, she wrote that Carillion did not admit to systematic corruption by supervisors, because in her words, there was “no physical evidence”. Again we see the disregarding of testimony by scores of South Asian staff, and the absurd expectation that physical evidence is needed to corroborate their stories before Carillion will accept it.
Carillion itself was formed by a de-merger from the Tarmac group in 1999, and the corporate rebranding obscured the fact that a construction giant had entered the services market in the public sector. It brought with it the hard-nosed, rapacious and money-grubbing ethos of the construction industry.
There is certainly a compelling similarity between the way Carillion has ignored, belittled and denied the reports of supervisor corruption at the Swindon hospital with the record of Carillion’s construction arm of victimising and blacklisting Health and Safety reps on its building sites. The common denominator is a seeming presumption to dismiss staff complaints as nuisance or of no value, even where serious matters of site safety or systematic racism and extortion are involved. Although the Blacklist Support Group had been doing sterling work in exposing the activites of the Construction companies, and UCATT had previously raised the issue with MPs, the blacklisting issue acheived lift-off when GMB joined the dots between Carillion’s malpractice at the Swindon hospital, and the history of unlawful blacklisting by the same company in the construction industry.
As Ian Lavery MP said during the parliamentary debate about blacklisting in January :
“On its own admission, Carillion has had £2.5 billion per annum from public contracts, at the same time as placing ordinary citizens on blacklists and stopping them working. It cannot be allowed and it must be stopped as soon as practicably possible. From July to September 2008, McAlpine spent £12,839 making 5,836 blacklist checks—a total of 63 a day. That corresponded with McAlpine’s building of the Olympic stadium. How disgraceful can you get? A major company such as McAlpine penalising people for whatever, at the same time as having multi-million-pound Government contracts, is, as many people have said, absolutely insidious.”
It is high time that private companies that have actively encouraged, colluded with, and indeed funded the unlawful maintenance of blacklisting databases are held to account; and they should be barred from publicly funded contracts until they have apologised to and compensated the victims; and until the individual managers responsible for making decisions that wrecked thousands of peoples’ lives face justice.