08/09/2017 10:14 BST

New McAlpine Boss: We Will Never Let Blacklisting Happen Again

MPs said it was a 'scandal' firm won lucrative Big Ben contract.

PA Archive/PA Images

A construction firm blasted by MPs after it was awarded a lucrative contract to refurbish Big Ben says it will never allow blacklisting to happen again.

Sir Robert McAlpine was one of eight major companies who had to pay out compensation after admitting it had penalised workers who were trade unionists or took part in union activities. 

Hundreds of construction employees across the country lost their jobs and were unable to find further work after they were blacklisted by industry giants through a shadowy organisation known as ‘The Consulting Association’, which kept lists of names.

Despite this, the government awarded McAlpine a lucrative £29 million contract to prepare the House of Commons’ Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben for refurbishment work.

MPs, including Labour’s Chuka Umunna and Jack Dromey and the SNP’s Chris Stephens, said firms that had been historically involved in blacklisting should face the consequences.

At a Westminster Hall debate on Tuesday, Dromey, a former trade union activist, said it was “a scandal” that McAlpine had been handed a Commons contract and GMB chief Tim Roache said the deal should be cancelled.

LEON NEAL via Getty Images
Labour MP Jack Dromey said it was "a scandal" that McAlpine had been awarded a lucrative government contract.

McAlpine’s new CEO, Paul Hamer, wrote to HuffPost UK following our report and said the company was committed to making sure blacklisting “stays firmly in the past”.

“Since my arrival, it has been one of my priorities to review the company’s HR and recruitment functions. I am pleased to confirm that Sir Robert McAlpine complies fully with all legislation to prevent blacklisting and is committed to fair and transparent recruitment,” he said. 

“Blacklisting in construction was, until 2009, an industry-wide issue.  Sir Robert McAlpine admitted and apologised for its involvement with The Consulting Association and amended its HR practices, policies and operations to ensure that it can never happen again.”  

Hamer, who joined McAlpine just over a month ago, said his company was subject to “significant and appropriate scrutiny” before being awarded the Commons contract, which will see the chimes of Big Ben paused for four years while major restorative works are carried out.  

“We carefully check the recruitment and employment practices of all our sub-contractors to ensure they meet our own high standards,” he added.  

“We have a zero tolerance policy towards blacklisting, illegal or unfair recruitment practices. In summary, I can assure you that blacklisting has no place now nor in the future at Sir Robert McAlpine.”

Business minister Margot James promised the government would look into the future awarding of contracts to firms involved in blacklisting.