Workers on new Forth bridge faced blacklisting

CONSTRUCTION firms building the new Forth Road Bridge are among companies who subscribed to a controversial blacklist of workers.

The Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors joint venture was identified as one of 15 firms awarded contracts by the Scottish Government or its agencies which had been singled out by the Information Commissioner’s Office as subscribing to the Consulting Association.

The association compiled lists of workers, said to contain active trade unionists or people who had raised health and safety concerns, which led to them being denied employment,

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Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon revealed the names of the contractors following a parliamentary question from Lothians Labour MSP Neil Findlay. She said: “We are not aware of any evidence to suggest that blacklisting has been used in connection with the performance of any of these contracts.”

The Consulting Association was shut down after its offices were raided in 2009 by the Office of the Information Commissioner, which served an enforcement notice under the terms of the Data Protection Act.

But more than 3000 individuals were found to be on blacklists seized by the Information Commissioner.Earlier this week, building giants Sir Robert McAlpine admitted checks were carried out on people seeking work on Edinburgh’s 
Quartermile development.

Company director Callum McAlpine, who chaired the Consulting Association, told the Commons Scottish affairs committee that the redevelopment of the former Edinburgh Royal Infirmary site in Lauriston Place was one of many projects where prospective employees were checked before being taken on.

Edinburgh South Labour MP Ian Murray, who is also shadow minister for employment relations, is now asking First Minister Alex Salmond to check whether there has been any blacklisting in connection with major projects in Scotland. He said: “Blacklisting is a stark reminder that workplace practices, which should have no place in a modern society, continue to scar our national decency. The revelations that construction firm Sir Robert McAlpine consulted with the Consulting Association over the prominent Quartermile development in the city is hugely concerning. While it has not been confirmed that Edinburgh construction workers were refused work because of this, it does not take away from the severity of the fact that the firm ran names against the list.

“With other such prominent projects ongoing, it is vital that we ensure that blacklisting is not occurring on these sites.”

Right royle change of career

Ricky Tomlinson, star of TV’s Royle Family, only turned to acting after he found himself blacklisted from the building industry in the 1970s.

He helped organise flying pickets during the 1972 builders’ strike and refused to testify in court against fellow strikers. He was jailed for two years as one of the “Shrewsbury 24”.

On his release from prison in 1975, he could not get work in the building trade because companies had blacklisted him.

He set himself up as an entertainer, theatrical agent and pub landlord, and became an actor after director Alan Bleasdale, who had seen his stage routine, gave him a part in Boys From The Blackstuff.