Asbestos Activists Take Campaign To Labour Party Conference

Members of construction union UCATT will this week extend their campaign to win justice for victims of pleural plaques by campaigning at Labour Party Conference in Manchester. In order to place pressure on Justice Secretary Jack Straw and the Government

Deaths from asbestos illnesses are increasing year on year. Last year over 2,000 people died of the incurable lung cancer mesothelioma.

Many deaths were traditionally associated with asbestos factories and heavy industries. Construction workers are now at greatest risk from asbestos, due to the material’s heavy usage in buildings.

UCATT campaigners will be:

Outside the main Entrance to Labour Party Conference

Peter Street

Manchester

M2 5GP

Sunday 21 September 2008

9.00am – 9.30am

Pleural plaques are scarring of the lung caused by heavy and prolonged exposure to asbestos. The scars become visible on x-rays following calcification. Pleural plaques cause limited physical symptoms, however victims suffer severe mental distress. Pleural plaques sufferers have a greatly increased chance of contracting the incurable lung disease mesothelioma.

Compensation for pleural plaques is a low financial amount. However if a pleural plaque victim then develops the fatal lung cancer mesothelioma, the relevant insurers will have already been identified, meaning that compensation will be paid in a victim’s lifetime. If the insurers have not already been identified this is unlikely to occur.

Last October the Law Lords overturned over 20 years of Common Law and ruled that pleural plaques should no longer be a compensational illness. Their decision is understood to be worth at least £1.4 billion to the insurance industry.

Since that judgement asbestos campaigners led by UCATT have been attempting to get the Government to overturn the House of Lords decision. UCATT organised a highly successful postcard campaign, with thousands of people writing to the Ministry of Justice to get the ban overturned.

In July the Government released a consultation document on Pleural Plaques. While UCATT was pleased that the Government was actively considering the issue, they were disappointed that the document says the “Government is not minded” to overturn the Law Lords decision.

This potentially places the Government at odds with the Scottish Parliament, who have introduced a Bill to overturn the Law Lords judgement. UCATT fears that a postcode lottery could be created with Pleural Plaques victims in Scotland receiving full compensation, while those in England are given less recompense.

Rather than overturn the Law Lords the Government appears inclined to create a scheme for asbestos victims. Such a scheme would not identify liability and the most severe cases would not receive adequate recompense.

Alan Ritchie, General Secretary of UCATT, said: “Thousands of workers have had their lives needlessly damaged by exposure to asbestos. They deserve justice. Compensation must be paid. The Law Lords decision must be overturned.”

For Further information contact Barckley Sumner on 0780 2329235.

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