The alleged architect of the construction ‘blacklisting’ scandal, Cullum McAlpine, has declined to give evidence in the High Court case, due to start next month, to establish the extent of wrong-doing in the industry.
Unite, the country’s largest union, condemned the decision by Cullum McAlpine not to take the witness box as ‘a further gross insult’ to the thousands of construction workers who have lost their jobs because of the machinations of the secretive Consulting Association and Services Group of the Economic League.
The revelations about Cullum McAlpine, a director of Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, came when the companies’ evidence was filed for the High Court trial which is due to start on Monday 9 May – and is expected to last 11 weeks.
The complex multi-strand case will centre on a number of key legal issues, including defamation, breaches of the 1988 Data Protection Act, conspiracy and misuse of private information. The outcome of the trial will determine the level of compensation those ‘blacklisted’ may receive.
Unite is supporting the claims of about 290 construction workers for damages for years of lost income because they were ‘blacklisted’. The claims are against Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, Balfour Beatty Engineering Services and more than 30 other firms.
Unite also pledged to challenge Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd every time that the company tenders for future public procurement contracts, unless Cullum McAlpine gives evidence at the High Court.
Unite director of legal services Howard Beckett said:
“Despite last October’s unprecedented admission of guilt by construction firms involved in blacklisting, those that masterminded this campaign of blacklisting are still twisting and turning to avoid appearing in court where the media and public will be present.
“It is Unite’s belief that that Cullum McAlpine, as founder chairman, was the key architect in the operation of the Consulting Association until it was raided by the Information Commissioner in 2009.
“The fact that he is refusing to give evidence to help bring closure for the suffering that our members and their families have endured is shaming.
“You judge the character of a person if they are prepared to stand up and defend their actions in open court – you don’t skulk in the legal twilight protected by a platoon of expensive City lawyers.
“How can a company run by a man who hides from his victims and the justice system ever hope to convince ministers that they have learnt from the sins of the past and deserve to be involved in public procurement contracts.
“Unite says loud and clear to Cullum McAlpine: Turn up and give evidence or expect your dispute with us to go on long after this litigation has concluded. We will object at every turn to your company benefiting from public procurement contracts.
“It is only now after sustained legal action, with the support of Unite, that the lid is being finally lifted on a scandal which has ruined countless lives and led to hardship for many more.
“However, the stain of blacklisting won’t be removed until there is a full public inquiry and the livelihoods of the blacklisted are restored by the firms involved giving them a permanent job.
“Many Unite members, who are the victims of blacklisting, have rejected the employers’ financial offers. The employers make mention of headline figures in regard to their top offers, but the reality is that they continue to attempt to buy off the majority of claims with low offers.
“The employers need to understand that compensation is only one part of the blacklisting struggle and until the employers are prepared to issue unreserved admissions as to the practices they undertook, prepared to disclose all documentation they hold regarding the blacklist and show a willingness to positively intervene in favour of employing victims then the fight goes on.”