Crossrail project dragged into blacklist scandal

Senior manager on London rail project routinely used Consulting Association’s secret list of trade union members at previous job

The government’s Crossrail project is embroiled in a scandal over the blacklisting of construction workers after a senior manager on the rail link emerged as a regular user of the blacklist in a previous job.

Ron Barron, industrial relations manager on the railway being built across London, cross-checked job applicants against a secret list of workers to be barred from the industry, a list that he helped to compile.

An employment tribunal found that he introduced the use of the blacklist at his former employer, the construction firm CB&I, and referred to it more than 900 times in 2007 alone.

The blacklist, which was run by a shadowy industry-funded firm, the Consulting Association, was seized in 2009 by the Information Commissioner’s office, but the full scale of its reach and the behaviour of the firms funding it has yet to emerge.

Many of those on the list – which contains more than 3,000 names of workers said to be troublesome or involved in trade unions – say their lives were ruined by their inability to find work over three decades.

Ian Kerr, chief officer of the Consulting Association, told a committee of MPs last week that his members had talked at length about Crossrail during meetings to discuss the list.

Kerr, who said he was paid £47,500 a year and given a company car, an annual bonus, life insurance and medical insurance to maintain the covert list for 20 firms over 16 years, admitted: “An awful lot of discussion took place at Consulting Association meetings about the Crossrail project.”

He also confirmed that firms blacklisted workers from the Olympic Park and projects including Portcullis House, the Admiralty, the Ministry of Defence’s Whitehall HQ, GCHQ, the Jubilee line and the new Wembley stadium.

On Saturday night the link to Crossrail sparked calls for an investigation into possible blacklisting on Europe’s biggest transport project.

The shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna MP, said: “Suggestions that blacklisting is still taking place on government projects paid for by taxpayers’ money, including in relation to the building of Crossrail, are very worrying. Clearly this needs to be investigated fully as a matter of urgency.”

The employment tribunal held in 2010 into the case of Philip Willis noted that Barron routinely checked job applicants against the list.

Willis’s entry on the blacklist said he was “a lovely chap on the surface but able to stir. He has had recent successful claim at IT [industrial tribunal] for discrimination on grounds of TU [trade union] membership”.

The tribunal found that he had been unlawfully refused work by CB&I and awarded him £12,375 for loss of earnings, £4,000 for injury to feelings and £2,000 aggravated damages because Barron had added information about Willis to the blacklist.

A Crossrail spokesman said Barron had stopped working on the project last month and there was no evidence of blacklisting of workers from the site.

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