For 16 years the Consulting Association compiled a secret database on thousands of construction workers. The files in this shabby two-room office had names, addresses and National Insurance numbers, comments by managers, newspaper clippings. The organisation acted as a covert vetting service funded by the industry. When people applied for work on building sites, senior employees at Carillion, Balfour Beatty, Skanska, Kier, Costain, McAlpine and more than 30 other companies would fax their names to the Consulting Association, where Kerr would check his files to see if they matched.
The effect was devastating. The worker had no idea their details were being checked and no way of seeing if the information was accurate. Blacklisting was a secret tool used by companies to keep out people they didn’t like. Those with files were often union members who had raised health-and-safety concerns. There had always been rumours about blacklisting but the files provided evidence.