A High Court judge has ordered 30 contractors, including Sir Robert McAlpine and Balfour Beatty, to disclose all correspondence linked to blacklisting. This practice denied work to thousands of trade union members.
The ruling on Friday of last week came at the end of a two-day hearing.
During the hearing it emerged that documents relating to firms’ involvement with the secretive Consulting Association (CA) blacklister had been destroyed.
Firms and four individuals now have to carry out searches for backed-up computer tapes of emails in order to disclose any relevant information by 12 February.
The court also ruled that contractors must pay costs for the hearing, estimated at up to £100,000.
Information that surfaces will be taken into account in calculating damages for the blacklisted workers when the case goes to full trial in May.
Another pre-hearing is set to take place on 1 February.
Eight major firms admitted last October to secretly collating information to vet workers.
Dinah Rose QC, who is representing the 600 blacklisted workers, told the court that “Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, Balfour Beatty and Carillion had destroyed the lives of thousands”.
Rose added that their continued conduct was designed to “cover their tracks”.
The role of Cullum McAlpine came in for particular criticism. He is director of Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd and founding chair of CA.
Not a single email or document to or from McAlpine, his personal assistant or CA’s final chair David Cochrane has been handed over. This is despite a court order requiring full disclosure.
The court was even told how all hard copies of correspondence between McAlpine and CA had been destroyed in 2011.
Rose told the court that “Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd has been evasive with conduct intended to conceal the central role of Cullum McAlpine.
“Cullum McAlpine is a very important man. For the sake of retaining trust in the British legal system, he must not be allowed to get away with a cover up.”
The court was also shown evidence that Cochrane, the CA chair when the body’s existence was discovered, had contacted the blacklisting organisation’s chief executive Ian Kerr.
He instructed him to “ring everyone—destroy all the data”.
Balfour Beatty’s role was also highlighted. It was revealed that the PC and laptop of Elaine Gallagher, the company’s main contact with CA, had been wiped in April 2013. This was again despite opposing instructions.
It was also disclosed to the court that an internal Balfour Beatty database had been discovered on human resources director Gerry Harvey’s laptop.
It contained the names of union activists, with the comments “not required” and “do not re-employ” next to the names.
Lord Justice Supperstone commented, “If the firms were professional enough to cover up their actions, did they also cover up more internal databases?”