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Asbestos victims

Asbestos: unions will challenge James Hardie on compensation

Unions have agreed to launch legal action against a bid by James Hardie's asbestos compensation fund to start paying victims in instalments rather than lump sums.

At its most recent meeting, the ACTU executive voted for legal action blocking James Hardie’s Supreme Court application to pay out sufferers in instalments.

The application came after the Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund, bankrolled by James Hardie Industries, announced it was heading for a cash shortfall of $184 million by 2017 after underestimating the number of people dying because of toxic asbestos.

ACTU secretary Dave Oliver said the average sufferer of the fatal asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma died 155 days after being diagnosed.

"Asbestos victims do not die by instalments and should not be paid in instalments," Mr Oliver said.

Rod Smith, whose wife died of mesothelioma in 2011, condemned the application to start paying instalments as "unconscionable" and one that "goes against everything the hard-fought agreement was set up to do".

Mr Smith said that if his wife had not been paid out in full, he would have been unable to stop working to nurse her full time at home until she died.

"I was with her at home, she died at home, and having money allowed us to do that," he said.

The ACTU has also called on the NSW and federal governments to honour their commitments to make a loan facility available to the compensation fund in the event of a remaining shortfall.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald.

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