Labour Research November 2009

Health & Safety Matters

Unions vent anger over pleural plaques

Unions are furious with the justice minister Jack Straw after he claimed that unions accepted medical claims about pleural plaques and therefore agreed workers should not get compensation.

Straw told a meeting of Labour Party conference delegates in September that his hands were tied because union leaders had accepted the medical evidence on pleural plaques.

Alan Ritchie, general secretary of UCATT construction union, accused Straw of being “disingenuous” over the government’s refusal to compensate victims of pleural plaques. Ritchie told the conference that the Law Lords’ 2007 ruling not to allow compensation was based purely on class.

“If the Law Lords had been affected it would have been allowed,” he said. “But workers in shipbuilding and construction are among the workers affected ... it is a working-class plague.”