Union officials face new probe into blacklist collusion

Construction union Unite has launched a new search for evidence of collusion with blacklisting in the industry by officers of the union and its predecessors.

A panel of lay members with personal experience of blacklisting will now oversee the gathering of evidence to be fed into an independent QC-led inquiry.

The panel is made up of Dave Smith, Chair of the Blacklist Support Group and the two Unite Executive Council Members for the construction sector, blacklisted electrician Frank Morris and Tony Seaman.

Unite General Secretary, Sharon Graham said: “It is very important that blacklisted workers and their families can have total confidence in this inquiry. I said we would do it and that no stone would be left unturned. I meant it.”

Smith said “The Blacklist Support Group applauds this announcement of a beefed up and more independent investigation. Any lingering doubts about the independence of the investigation have now been removed.”

Unite’s lawyers Thompsons have already begun gathering evidence from previous court cases and taking testimony from witnesses for the inquiry.

The deadline for submitting evidence has now been extended to 28 January 2022.

Anyone who has evidence of union officers from Unite or its predecessor unions colluding in the blacklisting of construction workers that has not yet been submitted to the inquiry is being asked to send it by email to BlacklistingInquiry@thompsons. law.co.uk.

The Enquirer first revealed claims eight years ago that construction union officials had colluded with contractors and the police over the blacklist which blighted the industry for decades.

The Blacklist Support Group said: “Blacklisted workers have campaigned for an independent investigation into union collusion for a long time: too long. We have known for over a decade that some blacklist files record the names of senior union officials as the source of information that led to us being denied employment.

“We know for a fact that some union officials emailed information about union activists to industrial relations consultants and managers working for major contractors up to their necks in blacklisting. This is totally unacceptable in a trade union movement that claims to be democratic and member led.

“Every union activist in construction already knows who these people are. We are not accusing every union official of being corrupt, there are many honest value driven officials. But neither is this about ‘one or two bad apples’.“Over many decades, the senior leadership of construction unions actively encouraged a business friendly model of trade unionism, where cultivating partnership arrangements with employers was often given priority over fighting for workers rights. Overly friendly relationships developed between union officials and managers, this is the context in which information detrimental to union members was being discussed.”

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University to offer courses in concrete road repairs

A new qualification in Concrete Pavement and Construction Maintenance has been launched by National Highways and the University of Derby.

The move is designed to plug the predicted skills gap in successfully delivering repairs and renewals of concrete roads.

National Highways is spending £400m in the next three years to improve the quality of existing concrete roads across the country – but 60% of the current specialist concrete workforce is set to retire within 10 years.

To fill this gap, the National Highways Concrete Roads Centre of Excellence has worked in partnership with the University of Derby to launch a BSc Honours in Concrete Pavements and Construction Maintenance.

The two-year part time course focuses on pavements and highways, and provides a pathway for those already studying related subjects to specialise or convert.

Mike Ambrose, Technical Lead at National Highways’ Concrete Roads Centre of Excellence, said: “The University of Derby and specifically the Centre for Mineral Products has a strong track record of delivering applied programmes for industry so are a natural partner for National Highways.

“As the current specialist concrete workforce begin to see out their careers we’re excited to begin upskilling and working with the next generation of engineers. This employer led programme, which is open to both National Highways and the supply chain staff, will help those people get on the pathway to becoming the future industry leaders.

Mark Osbaldeston, the Head of the Centre for Mineral Products at the University of Derby, said: “The concrete roads programme is fundamental in ensuring the future success of our road networks, and this BSc Honours provision will help provide a continued supply of highly skilled individuals to the profession.

“Our team of academics have extensive experience within the mineral products sector and are very much looking forward to sharing their knowledge and practical expertise with the next generation of industry leaders.”

The course begins in January and is aimed at a range of learners including those with foundation degrees, Level 5 apprenticeships and pavement engineering consultants and suppliers who want to extend their knowledge and understanding of the subject.

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Morgan Sindall starts £31m Leeds resi scheme

Leeds developer Citylife has finalised a contract with Morgan Sindall to deliver a luxury £31m residential apartment scheme in the city.

Following a four-month pre-construction service agreement, Morgan Sindall has now formally started the 16-storey Springwell Gardens project to deliver 223 one, two, and three-bedrooms.

The construction project is due to be finalised by 2023 and is on the doorstep of the Leeds Southbank Holbeck Regeneration Project – the largest city centre regeneration plan in Europe.

Gareth Morgan, Managing Director at Citylife, said: “For the last four months we have collaborated with Morgan Sindall under a pre-construction services agreement.

“The sector is experiencing some of the most challenging and volatile conditions in recent times, but the team at Morgan Sindall Construction have worked tirelessly to make our vision a reality. We look forward to working with them on this prestigious project and cementing the relationship for our future projects.”

 

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Builder jailed after demolishing wall on colleague

A builder has been jailed for three years and three months following an investigation into the death of a labourer on a site in Hampshire in 2019.

Paramjit Singh, 48, of Southampton, was found guilty of gross negligence manslaughter following a two-week trial at Winchester Crown Court.

On Friday he was sentenced to three years and three months for the gross negligence manslaughter charge.

Singh was also sentenced to 20 months for safety breaches which he had admitted previously. Both sentences will run concurrently.

He was charged following a joint investigation with the Health and Safety Executive into the death of 64-year-old Kulwant Singh Athwal from Southampton.

The court heard how officers were called to the site on 16 July, 2019, following the discovery of the body of a man in his 60s.

Kulwant Singh Athwal had been working for Singh, who was previously the owner and manager of SAB Builders, as an ‘odd job man’ on the demolition of a house in Chilworth. They had been hired by the owners to clear the garden and garage to make way for an extension.

The day before the incident Singh had demolished all but one side of the garage on the grounds. On leaving at the end of the day, no signs or boarding had been put up around the site to indicate it was unsafe.

On 16 July, 2019, Singh returned to the site just before 9am to demolish the final wall of the garage. No exclusion zones were identified around the wall, and Singh was not aware of where the members of his team were when he started up the digger and moved toward the wall.

Kulwant Singh Athwal was on the other side of the wall when it collapsed onto him.

Post mortem examinations were conducted by Home Office Pathologist Dr Basil Purdue, and concluded that Athwal died as a result from his injuries, which were consistent with being crushed by a heavy object.

The court also heard how Singh’s public liability and skills card were expired after SAB Builders went bankrupt in 2015 and the company ceased trading.

Hampshire Constabulary’s investigation was led by Detective Chief Inspector Kate Gunson.

Speaking after today’s verdict, she said: “This was an extremely tragic case resulting in the completely avoidable death of Kulwant Singh Athwal.

“It is a tragedy for all involved. We hope that lessons will be learned that prevent this from ever happening again.”

HSE inspector James Lucas said: “All demolition work, however large or small, has the potential of serious risk if it is not properly planned and controlled.

“Paramjit Singh failed to prepare a written plan for the demolition of the building or any site-specific risk assessments. In this case, simple control measures and safe working practices, such as excluding people on site from danger zones with physical barriers, could have saved a life.

“There are no winners here. The victim, Kulwant Singh Atwal, so sadly lost his life because of the absence of basic safety measures. The perpetrator, Paramjit Singh, will spend time in prison and will always carry the heavy burden of having caused another person’s death.

“HSE would like to encourage all small builders to ensure they know how to properly plan, manage and monitor all construction work they undertake. The HSE website provides a wealth of information, some of it translated into other languages.

“In addition, HSE wants to stress to all workers from minority communities or anyone from any background who may feel vulnerable, that health and safety law is there for their protection, just as much as any other workers. HSE always focuses on making workplaces safer and healthier, whoever is at risk.”

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