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M&E firms among those accused of blacklisting workers

Some of the m&e sector's biggest names are among those accused by the government of using confidential personal data to blacklist ‘trouble-makers’.

The companies named by the information commissioner include Balfour Kilpatrick, Haden Young, Shepherd Engineering Services, Sias Building Services and Crown House Technologies.

The announcement today of the companies involved follows a raid on the offices of a private investigator allegedly paid to provide details on thousands of workers’ union activities.

There are claims that construction companies pooled information on workers via the private investigator and paid an annual subscription for access to information.

Companies contacted by the Guardian over the list claimed that they had inherited a relationship with the PI when buying businesses and had since stopped using the service.

The information was seized by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) during a raid in Droitwich, West Midlands.

Ian Kerr, the owner of a firm known as the Consulting Association, appears to have run the database for over fifteen years.

The ICO said it had uncovered evidence at Kerr’s premises that named construction firms subscribed to Kerr’s system for a £3,000 annual fee.

Companies could add information to the system and pay £2.20 for details held on individuals. Invoices to construction firms for up to £7,500 were seized during the raid.

The ICO has served an Enforcement Notice ordering Mr Kerr to stop using the system, and he now faces prosecution by the ICO for breaching the Data Protection Act.

ICO deputy information commissioner David Smith said: “This is a serious breach of the Data Protection Act. Not only was personal information held on individuals without their knowledge or consent but the very existence of the database was repeatedly denied. The covert system enabled Mr Kerr to unlawfully trade personal information on workers for many years helping the construction industry to vet prospective employees. The Data Protection Act clearly states that organisations must be open about how they process personal information, and in most cases those processing personal information must register with the ICO – Mr Kerr did not comply with the law on either count.

“On raiding Mr Kerr’s business premises we discovered an extensive operation involving household names in the construction industry. Kerr held information on thousands of construction workers and profited by checking names against his database.

“We will prosecute Mr Kerr and we are also considering what regulatory action to take against construction firms who have been using the system. I remind business leaders that they must take their obligations under the Data Protection Act seriously. Trading people’s personal details in this way is unlawful and we are determined to stamp out this type of activity.”

Below is the ICO’s list of companies that subscribed to the Consulting Association. The use of brackets indicates where companies have undergone a change of name or where subsidiaries have been absorbed by parent companies. Ex members may no longer exist or no longer avail themselves of Kerr’s service.

Amec Building Ltd

Amec Construction Ltd

Amec Facilities Ltd

Amec Ind Div

Amec Process & Energy Ltd

Amey Construction – Ex Member

B Sunley & Sons – Ex Member

Balfour Beatty

Balfour Kilpatrick

Ballast (Wiltshire) PLc – Ex Member

Bam Construction (HBC Construction)

Bam Nuttall (Edmund Nutall Ltd)

C B & I

Cleveland Bridge UK Ltd

Costain UK Ltd

Crown House Technologies

(Carillion/Tarmac Const)

Diamond M & E Services

Dudley Bower & Co Ltd – Ex Member

Emcor (Drake & Scull) - ‘Ex Ref’

Emcor Rail

G Wimpey Ltd – Ex Member

Haden Young

Kier Ltd

John Mowlem Ltd -Ex Member

Laing O’Rourke (Laing Ltd)

Lovell Construction (UK) Ltd – Ex Member

Miller Construction Limited – Ex Member

Morgan Ashurst

Morgan Est

Morrison Construction Group –Ex Member

N G Bailey

Shepherd Engineering Services

Sias Building Services

Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd

Skanska (Kaverna/Trafalgar House Plc)

SPIE (Matthew Hall) - Ex Member

Taylor Woodrow Construction Ltd – Ex Member

Turriff Construction Ltd –Ex Member

Tysons Contractors – Ex Member

Walter Llewellyn & Sons Ltd - Ex Member

Whessoe Oil & Gas

Willmott Dixon – Ex Member

Vinci PLC (Norwest Holst Group)