Around 80 construction workers in Britain, many of them Irish electricians and engineers, are taking legal action against British construction firm Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, claiming the firm blacklisted them from jobs after illegally obtaining information about them.
A report in the Irish Times says McAlpine was one of 45 firms that had been found by the UK Information Commissioner in 2009 to have used information gathered by the Consulting Association, which was found to include information about workers’ trade union activity, employment history and personal lives.
During a trial against Consulting Association owner Ian Kerr, the head of the investigations and information commissioner David Clancy said some of the information could have come only from sources such as the police or security services.
As a result of the trial, Kerr was fined £5,000 for running a covert operation to vet workers on construction projects since the 1970s.
The 80 workers, who are seeking losses for damages, allege information from the database was used by the construction firm to discriminate against them in hiring and employment practices.
The Irish Times report says a large number of the workers believed to have been discriminated against were Irish and have had to return to Ireland because of difficulties getting work in the UK.
Sixty-two-year-old engineer Mick Shortall, for example, found it impossible to get work in Britain after taking part in a union protest six years ago.
In another case, the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee was told last month that Jim Lafferty, an Irish electrician who is now deceased and was one of the founders of the Blacklist Support Group, was ‘victimised and blacklisted’ after raising health and safety concerns on a London construction site.
Although Kerr’s files were seized three years ago, workers believe some of the information previously shared with construction firms prior to the seizure is still being used as a blacklisting tool today.
Legal papers regarding the current case were served a fortnight ago and the case is likely to come before the High Court in London in 2013.