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Britain’s Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) called for assurances from the country’s Labour Party government this week. The union wants to be sure that the party will keep its promises to reinstate its compensation programs for patients afflicted with respiratory disorders related to their time working with the deadly carcinogen asbestos. The compensation program targets workers that have developed scarring in the lungs known as pleural plaques.

John Thompson, a UCATT representative, reportedly told a Labour delegation about how workers are still being exposed to the deadly mineral. Reportedly he said that thousands of workers in construction and demolition crews all over Britain “still work on this deadly material”. Mr. Thompson also mentioned how thousands of these workers die each year from asbestos-related lung disorders such as mesothelioma and pleural plaques. Mr. Thompson expressed how upset he and other union leaders were that the Labour party had yet to renew the compensation payments due to the ailing workers.

The party’s stance, as detailed by the party’s justice secretary, Jack Straw, proclaimed that workers who had developed illnesses due to asbestos exposure and had filed claims prior to 2007 would receive a one-time payment of £5,000 (US$8,000). The stance comes as the result of a decision by the country’s Law Lords to prevent workers from obtaining additional recompense. Workers who failed to file claims before the cutoff date, as well as those who could develop these disorders in future years, would be denied compensation.

Mr. Thompson said that his union has campaigned for several years to make sure that workers who had suffered from asbestos-related illnesses received compensation for their exposure. He mentioned that the Scottish Parliament had overturned the Law Lords’ decision, but England and Wales had yet to do so. He said that the English Parliament’s decision not to challenge the ruling “was met with delight” by insurance companies that would have been forced to pay out “millions of pounds in compensation payments”.

Mr. Thompson did say that the Labour Party was willing to contribute to the National Centre for Asbestos Related Disease, a non-profit agency that has conducted research into the causes of and potential treatments for mesothelioma and pleural plaques. He also reportedly noted that the current Conservative-Democrat coalition government, elected earlier this year, has refused to offer any funding for the research efforts. According to reports, mesothelioma is the number-one workplace killer in Great Britain.

Mr. Thompson also mentioned that, despite the ruling by the Scottish Parliament, insurance agencies in that country are still attempting to block payments and are appealing the ruling through the court system.

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