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06/03/2009 - Bosses operate secret blacklist

More than 40 companies, including some of Britain’s biggest construction firms, are facing legal action over claims that they paid a private detective to vet prospective employees.

Balfour Beatty and Sir Robert McAlpine are among companies accused of paying to access a database of construction workers.  The list is reported  to contain the details of Midlands construction workers who have been involved in trade union disputes and employment tribunals since the 1990s. The list reportedly found in Mr Kerr's office on Feb 23 includes the names and national insurance numbers of 3,213 construction workers, including many electricians. Invoices detailing contracts between the consultant and at least 40 building firms were also seized in the raid, it is alleged.

It was  found by officials from the Information Commissioner's Office in a raid on the Worcestershire offices of a private consultant last month.

Ian Kerr, of Droitwich, Worcestershire, charged firms £3,000 a year to consult his database of 3,213 workers, whose names were accompanied by notes such as “poor timekeeper, will cause trouble, strong [trade union]”.

He will be prosecuted under the Data Protection Act, which prohibits holding personal information on individuals without their knowledge or consent.

David Smith, the deputy information commissioner, 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.”