WHISTLES were blown and placards waved as members of a union staged a noisy protest today outside the Basingstoke office of an engineering firm.

The protest was outside the Basing View offices of Kier. The union Unite alleges that the firm was involved in the sacking of 28 workers for blowing the whistle over health and safety during the construction of the London Crossrail project.

Kier is part of the BFK (BAM, Ferrovial and Kier) consortium which employed a firm called EIS to complete electrical work on Crossrail - an underground railway line which will link areas east and west of London using 73 miles of rail track. Unite has accused BFK of effectively dismissing the EIS workforce because trade union activists raised health and safety concerns about dangerous cabling in the Crossrail tunnels.

It says the former Consulting Association organisation was involved in blacklisting workers on behalf of employers in the construction industry.

Giant inflatable rats, posters and megaphones were used by protesters to make their point, as they shouted for bosses inside to come out and speak with them, warning that they would return.

Police were called to the protest and remained on scene from 12.50pm to 1.30pm until the protesters moved on to Southampton, where they were planning to demonstrate outside the Kier offices there. Mick Duncan, senior organiser of the protest, said of blacklisting: “It’s completely against the law.”

Shouting through a megaphone, he added: “It’s time to stop sacking union members off the job.”

Unite is calling for suitable re-employment for those who lost their jobs and for “zero tolerance” of blacklisting. Viv Chesterfield, corporate communications manager for Kier Group, said: “The activities of the now disbanded Consulting Association and any other activities that had been associated with any form of blacklisting in the construction industry are both historic and clearly regrettable.

“Whilst acknowledging our full cooperation with the investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office at the time, when no action was taken, we are very keen to point out that the industry has moved on a long way since then.

“We, Kier, neither condone nor do we use any form of blacklisting which, we agree, has no place in today’s business environment or indeed in society at large.”

Crossrail has also denied blacklisting workers.

Sergeant Carl Holmes said police were called to Kier following reports of a disturbance, but no arrests had been made.