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THE number of asbestos-related disease victims, the injustice they face and the amount of asbestos still in our public buildings, hospitals, schools and homes putting others at risk makes for grim and shocking reading.
Now asbestos victims’ support groups across Yorkshire and the Midlands are coming together to hold a conference for trade unions and other interested organisations to work together to determine how we can campaign for change to prevent and eradicate asbestos-related diseases.
At the same time, we are campaigning for justice for those who are currently suffering from mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma is an asbestos-related cancer. It is still incurable and almost always caused by exposure to asbestos.
Although asbestos was banned at the end of 1999, millions of tons of asbestos still remain in our buildings.
Derbyshire Asbestos Support Team (Dast), Yorkshire and Humberside Asbestos Support Group and Asbestos Support Central England are organising a conference to bring together campaigners to discuss how we can work together to raise awareness and campaign for change to move towards making our public buildings and homes free of asbestos.
Delegates will hear from successful activists running innovative campaigns as well as those working towards the aims of eradication of asbestos.
Dave Trigg, chair of Dast and a Unite member who himself was exposed to asbestos, stated: “The trade union movement has been at the forefront of the campaign for the banning and removal of asbestos, also for fair and better compensation for victims of asbestos-related diseases.
“A good example of this is with the Joint Union Asbestos Committee, Juac, made up of delegates from nine trade unions having members employed in the education sector at all levels.
“Juac has made great strides in campaigning for better knowledge and awareness of asbestos in education centres.”
A representative of Juac will discuss their work at the meeting.
The support groups organising the meeting are also keen to highlight the need for the government lump sum schemes to be reviewed and updated.
The current pandemic has highlighted how delays in processing claims for industrial injuries disablement benefit for victims of asbestosis and pleural thickening are losing compensation under the scheme.
This is because the amount awarded under Pneumoconiosis Etc (Workers’ Compensation) Act is based on the age of the person at the time the decision to pay benefit is made.
For some this is nearly a year after they lodged the claim, so therefore they are a year older.
There is also an inconsistency in the schemes. If applications are made after the patient has died, the payments, which can only be claimed by surviving partners or dependent children, are substantially lower.
Many family members feel that the life of their loved one lost to this devastating disease is being undervalued.
This is surely morally wrong, especially as in a legal claim a surviving partner will suffer no such disadvantage.
Furthermore, victims’ families could suffer a financial hardship as people budget on the basis of two incomes and through no fault of their own, they are reduced to one income and further disadvantaged by receiving a lower government compensation payment.
Angela Mulligan from Yorkshire and Humberside Asbestos Support Group said: “We hear a lot from victims that they do not want the money for themselves. They are concerned about the financial security of their families.”
Therefore, the groups involved with the conference, as well as other support groups as part of the Asbestos Victims Support Groups’ Forum, are calling for the scheme to be reviewed, to make it fair that delays in benefits do not cause loss of compensation and that in-life and posthumous claims are equalised.
It is unfair that a victim dying of mesothelioma should have to struggle to make decisions about compensation and try to complete forms. It is morally indefensible that these decisions should be made at this time.
The conference will bring interested parties together to discuss issues around justice and awareness and how we can work together to take collective action to make a difference.
Campaign Against All Fears — Campaign for Change is on Friday April 16, from 9.30am to 1pm. Speakers include Colin Hampton from Unite Community, Greg Byrne from RB Asbestos, Dan Shiers the National Health, Safety and Environment Director for the GMB, Dave Smith of the Blacklist Support Group and John McClean (TBC) for Juac. Visit www.mstar.link/asbestos21 to book.
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