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Construction giant Carillion has been forced to abandon its plans to recover legal costs from a blacklisted building worker to whom it has apologised.

Dave Smith was one of a number of workers blacklisted by the construction industry because of their union activities.

Construction firms did this by providing information on him to the Consulting Association, which for over four decades was paid by 44 companies to vet 3,213 potential recruits in the industry.

The Consulting Association was forced to close in 2009 after it was raided by the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Smith, an engineer, could not find work in the industry and saw his income slump from £30,000 a year to £12,000 when he found employment elsewhere.

The firms are being targeted in the High Court by construction workers, including Smith, who are seeking compensation. Smith worked for Mowlem, which later became part of Carillion.

‘Full apology’

As part of its defence in the case, Carillion is one of eight companies that last month issued a “full and unreserved apology” to blacklisted workers and said: “Ever since the closure of the Consulting Association we have been focusing on trying to do the right thing by affected workers.”

However, Smith lost in an employment tribunal against Carillion, because he was employed as an agency worker at the time and only direct employees are covered by UK employment law.

His subsequent request to have the Supreme Court hear his case was refused and Carillion responded by claiming its legal costs, which included £600 for one hour’s work by QC John Bower. The total amounted to £3,494.50.

‘Moral responsibility’

Carillion insisted it was the Supreme Court that made the costs order, not the firm itself. But Smith’s lawyer Declan Owens disputed this, saying: “Carillion’s solicitors wrote to me on 15 October stating the total costs sum that their client is seeking to recover from the appellant Mr Smith is £3,494.50.”

Smith made publicly clear he had no intention of paying up. Now Carillion has told Big Issue North it will not be seeking to recover the costs. A company spokesperson added: “The issue has no bearing on the statement and apology issued by the eight companies.”

In a separate “mythbuster” statement issued by Carillion it has claimed Smith helped “organise unlawful, unofficial picketing against Schal”, another company that later became part of Carillion.

Smith said: “I am very pleased that Carillion has finally seen fit to state that they will not be chasing me for legal costs and it is a huge weight off my shoulders in the run-up to Christmas.

“But Carillion still refuses to accept their moral responsibility for their blacklisting role and continues to use its corporate website to accuse me of unlawful picketing.

“The truth is I was peacefully picketing outside their building sites after being sacked after having raised safety issues in my role as a Ucatt safety rep.

“It was all perfectly legal and officially supported by my union. I was blacklisted as a result.”

Photo: Blacklisted worker Dave Smith arrested after protesting against construction companies in London in March. (David Rowe/PA)

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