Socialist Worker

GMB conference: pleural plaques sufferers demand justice over asbestos

by Simon Basketter, at GMB conference in Southport
Issue No. 2205

Arthur Woodhead has been waiting seven years for compensation after exposure to asbestos left him ill.

“All we want is a clear date for when we will get our money,” the 63-year-old told Socialist Worker.

Victims of prolonged exposure to asbestos suffer scarring of the lungs, known as “pleural plaques”.

Not everyone with pleural plaques gets a cancer called mesothelioma, but those that do normally die within a year of diagnosis.

Victims were entitled to compensation until 2007, but insurance companies fought each case hard to delay payments.

The reason was simple: the longer the delay, the fewer claimants left alive.

In 2007 the law lords backed a court case by the insurance industry to stop compensation through the courts altogether, letting the industry keep £1.4 billion, according to figures produced by the GMB union.

Just before losing the election Labour finally offered compensation to some—a £5,000 payout.

This is much less than they would have got if they were allowed to sue. And much less than they deserve.

Now there are serious concerns that the new Tory government could scrap the scheme altogether.

“Some people have been waiting close to ten years now,” said Arthur. “It’s disgusting.”

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