A damning report by the Scottish Affairs Committee has accused the firms behind the compensation scheme for blacklisted construction workers of ‘misleading’ MPs and affected workers over the plans.
The Construction Workers Compensation Scheme (TCWCS) was launched in July last year, developed and funded by Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and Vinci.
The new report has branded the scheme “callous and manipulative” for implying it had the backing of trades unions when it hadn’t.
The Committee says a voluntary code of conduct to eradicate the practice in future is insufficient and a statutory code of practice is required.
They identified a number of other flaws in the scheme, including: low levels of compensation being offered, the fact those participating in the High Court litigation are not eligible to access the scheme, and the failure to incorporate any type of positive action measures to upskill and re-employ victims.
The Committee did acknowledge, however, that it is only those eight firms – out of the 30 known to have used the services of The Consulting Agency that ran the blacklisting service – who have taken any steps at all to remedy the sins of the past.
Ian Davidson MP, Chair of the Committee, said, “The unilateral introduction of a compensation scheme was an act of bad faith by those involved, likely to be motivated by a desire to minimise financial and reputational damage rather than being a genuine attempt to address the crimes of the past. To mislead MPs is a serious issue but to mislead blacklisted workers and their families by implying trade unions were in agreement with the scheme is both callous and manipulative.”
A statement from TCWCS in reponse to the report stated, “The eight construction companies that developed, launched and are funding The Construction Workers Compensation Scheme (TCWCS) welcome the report’s recognition that they are the only companies in the industry that have taken any steps to apologise for their historic involvement with The Consulting Association (TCA) and to establish a route for affected workers to access compensation. While many other construction companies were also users of TCA, we* regretted the impact it may have had and wanted to do the right thing for those impacted.
“The scheme, which opened in July 2014, offers straightforward and easy access to compensation for anyone who has been affected by the existence of TCA records. It is a faster and less stressful process than a court case and since launch has received hundreds of eligible applications. Awards start at £4,000 for those on whom very basic information was held, rising to £100,000 where there is proof of significant loss of earnings. The lowest level of compensation through the scheme is intended to reflect a basic award for breach of data protection where there is no evidence of financial loss. In addition, we are paying for legal advice for anyone applying to the scheme to ensure they make the right decision for their circumstances; and refresher training, to update skills, experience and certification, is available to anyone entering the scheme to ensure this is not an impediment to future employment.
“We were disappointed that that the launch of TCWCS was not supported by the unions; we note that the final report references our engagement with the unions prior to the launch and recognises key changes were made to the scheme as a result of these conversations. We strongly refute any suggestion that we had attempted to mislead any of our audiences or conceal the outcome of our discussions with the unions. That said, we wrote to MPs in July 2014 apologising for any ambiguity our original letter may have created.
“We remain fully committed to the scheme which, as of Friday 20 March 2015, had received more than 480 enquiries, 233 eligible applications and had compensated 149 people. We continue to look for ways in which we can reach those whose names were held on TCA records and we welcome the Committee’s encouragement for the unions to facilitate, rather than obstruct, that process.
“Each of the eight companies involved in TCWCS is determined to ensure this issue stays in the past and would comply fully with any code of conduct – either statutory or voluntary – that may be introduced to this end.”
Steve Murphy, General Secretary of construction union UCATT, said, “The Scottish Affairs Committee has condemned the counterfeit compensation scheme in the strongest possible terms. The scheme has no credibility and workers who have had their lives ruined have seen that TCWCS is simply a cheap way to gag them and deny them justice. Blacklisting will only be eradicated through strict laws, with blacklisters facing criminal charges, a voluntary code would be worse than useless. Until blacklisters own up, pay up and clean up they should be barred from bidding for public sector contracts.”