BOSSES were forced to apologise yesterday to blacklisted construction workers who were denied work for decades — yet a judge refused permission for the case to progress to a criminal court.
Mr Justice Supperstone told a packed courtroom in the Royal Courts of Justice that he could not allow them to request a full criminal trial, even though the construction companies admitted guilt, because the defendants had paid out damages after confessing to using a secret blacklist service and shunning more than 3,000 unionised workers from available jobs.
The 44 major companies engaged in blacklisting since the late 1960s include Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska and Vinci.
The blacklist database carried personal details about workers such as their political affiliations, health, union memberships and personal situations.
Roy Bentham, a carpenter blacklisted for 14 years, said that the refusal showed the “failure of the British justice system.”
Mr Bentham said he didn’t want the compensation and added: “We want nothing to do with this apology. We need justice out of these proceedings. We do not want this to be kicked into the long grass for the next 27 years.
“I hope we do not have to come back to this courtroom in years to come. For it to not go to trial will be an injustice. We will carry on fighting for justice until we get it.”
Blacklist Support Group spokesman Dave Smith said that they will seek legal advice with a view to gaining permission from the Supreme Court following Mr Supperstone’s refusal.
The claimants will also lobby local authorities to refuse publicly funded contracts to dozens of major construction companies as a number of them are still using blacklists, he added.
As the defence barrister started reading out the apology, Mr Smith led an unexpected chant of “No justice, no peace” on the public bench until Mr Supperstone asked for order.
Andrew Caldecott QC continued to say that the defendants “offer their sincere and unreserved apologies to the claimants for the damage caused … and for the loss of employment suffered as a result of communication of information during the operation of the Consulting Association.”
Blacklist service providers Consulting Association was formerly known as the Economic League and then Services Group, whose cover was blown by journalists before it changed its name in 1993 with a £10,000 start-up grant from Sir Robert McAlpine.
It was again exposed in 2009 when the Information Commissioner seized a database with details of 3,213 workers, health and safety whistleblowers and environmental activists.
Compensation totalling £75 million was awarded last month to 771 blacklisted union members of GMB, Ucatt, GCR and Unite — including £25m legal costs.
GMB legal director Maria Ludkin said: “Despite years of denials, the greedy Goliaths have been forced to apologise and account for their unlawful blacklisting.”
And GMB national officer Justin Bowden said: “Government and employers’ organisations must never forget this sordid episode.”