More than 50 trade union members have won compensation totalling £1.9m after major construction firms admitted that they had been unlawfully blacklisted and denied work.
The compensation will be paid by the firms after they agreed out of court settlements with the workers, avoiding a high court trial that was due to start next month.
The latest round of payments means that in total, the firms have been forced in the last three years to pay compensation of £35m to more than 1,200 blacklisted workers.
They have also had to pay the blacklisted workers’ legal costs – another £20m – and £230,000 to a fund that will be used to retrain the trade unionists.
Some of the trade unionists are due to describe to a hearing of the high court on Friday how the blacklisting blighted their lives. The court is expected to formally approve the settlements.
Howard Beckett, assistant general secretary of the trade union Unite, which brought the claims, said: “This is a historic agreement which provides some degree of justice to a further group of construction workers who had their working lives needlessly ruined by blacklisting construction companies.”
Eight construction firms have been compelled to apologise unreservedly to trade unionists who discovered they were being blacklisted because of their political beliefs. Between 1993 and 2009, more than 40 construction firms funded and maintained confidential files on at least 3,200 workers. They pooled information about their employment histories, political views and health and personal relationships.
The firms checked the files when individual workers applied for jobs. Those deemed by the firms to be troublemakers were refused work. The workers were not told why they had been rejected. Some of them had raised health and safety concerns on construction sites.
The files were housed in a nondescript office in Droitwich, Worcestershire, under the bland name of the Consulting Association. A decade ago, following an article in the Guardian, the official watchdog, the Information Commissioner, raided the office and closed down the blacklist, declaring it illegal.
The Information Commissioner made the files available to the blacklisted workers, who then launched legal action.
The eight firms announced on Tuesday that their offers of compensation had been accepted by the latest group of 53 blacklisted workers. They are Sir Robert McAlpine, Balfour Beatty, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Skanska UK, Vinci and Carillion.
The eight firms are locked in a dispute with Amec Foster Wheeler, as they argue it was involved in running the blacklist and should therefore pay a contribution towards the bill.
Unite had sought to force Cullum McAlpine, whom they consider to be a key architect of the blacklist, to give evidence at the trial, which was due to start on 4 June. The McAlpine director was also chairman of the Consulting Association when the blacklist was set up.
Beckett said it was “bitterly disappointing” that he would not be compelled to be cross-examined at the trial, which has been dropped as part of the settlements.
Police chiefs have admitted that they supplied details of trade unionists to the blacklist in what they acknowledge was a “potentially improper flow” of information.