Union lobbyists call for action on pleural plaques


Gordon Brown has been urged to put an end to the "compensation limbo" for 1000s of workers who suffer from pleural plaques (an asbestos related illness).

Unions across all sectors of the work force have called for the controversial ruling by the House of Lord, which put an end to pleural plaques sufferers claiming compensation, to be overturned.

Pleural Plaques are the most common injury caused by exposure to asbestos. They appear as a white or yellow thickening on the pleura and are often found to be frequently bilateral (involving both lungs) and symmetric in shape and size.

People who have had heavy or prolonged exposure to asbestos are at risk of developing Pleural Plaques. The biggest problem with Pleural Plaques is that it can lead to serious asbestos illnesses such as Mesothelioma or Asbestosis.

In Scotland, The Damages (Asbestos-Related Conditions) (Scotland) Bill enables victims to continue to claim compensation through the courts for pleural plaques, pleural thickening and asbestos-related conditions.

Graham Goddard, Unite's deputy leader said: "Compensation must come from those who put them at risk in the 1st place, and from an insurance industry which made money from that risk. It is clear that neither employers nor the insurance industry will do right by these workers so we need our Government to make them."

The Government is expected to announce its decision in November following a 3 month long consultation process.

CWU National Health and Safety Officer Dave Joyce said "The House of Lords decision was harsh and a grave injustice to working people. The Lords ruling is based largely on the proposition that pleural plaques amounts to an injury without symptoms and therefore not worthy of compensation. However, the facts are that pleural plaques arise when deadly asbestos fibres are inhaled and eventually work their way through the lungs, permanently penetrating the lung tissue into the pleural cavity where they form plaques and can often cover large areas of the lungs. "

"In far too many cases it's a sure indication that more serious and fatal asbestos-related illnesses will follow and inevitably anxiety often accompanies the diagnosis and that anxiety about the possibility of a fatal condition developing at a later stage can be disabling in itself. "

"This unwelcome invasion of the body and psychological damage justifies an award of compensation in itself. Ironically, the Law Lords themselves indicated their strong sympathy for the plight of the victims in their ruling. I hope that the government will consider translating that sympathy into action and that the decision will be reversed by the Westminster Parliament. The Scottish Parliament has so far been more positive and is likely to reverse the decision by legislation. "

"Thousands of workers who were exposed to asbestos due to employer negligence have lost the right to claim compensation and have been plunged into compensation limbo by the House of Lords decision, in October 2007 and the decision has meant massive £25 million a year savings for UK Insurers of companies concerned with pay-outs averaging £5,000-£6,000."

"Recent research has predicted that around 150,000 UK workers asbestos-related pleural plaques claims could forestall in the coming 30 years which would save insurers up to £1.4 bn."

"The British Insurers arguing against new legislation to overturn the House of Lords decision on the grounds that pleural plaques don't impact on a person's health, and don't develop into asbestos related diseases should be asked if they are prepared to provide standard premium, unabated life insurance to pleural plaques victims?"

"They are having it both ways, and it's scandalous that they should be allowed to sidestep the problem."

Further information – Pleural Plaques

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