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Old 28-January-2015, 11:19
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Default Compensation for industrial disease

Researching newspapers for my birth date of 17th April 1940.!

Found an interesting article about silicosis in the mining industry. Why did it take so long to ensure miners suffering from industrial related lung disease obtained proper compensation.

Between 1998 and 2004 there were 570,000 claims made to British Coal for compensation.

In 2011 there were 265 newly assessed cases of CWP (Coal Workers Pneumoconiosis) and 40 cases of silicosis for disablement benefit.

Here's the article:-

"HEROES for whom
there is no
CENOTAPH

The public must be told of the miner's grim battle with death-bringing disease and of heroes whose bravery is unsung

Judging from the Press one would think that newspapermen had to wait for a war to break out before they could find heroes worthy of their pens. But in our mining districts, heroism, bravery and suffering nobly born are every-day things, only they are not regarded as worthy of public presentation and public interest.

In South Wales today there is a word that strikes dread in every miner's home, not just in wartime, but all the time - SILICOSIS!. It has the same effect on miner's families as the dreaded War Office telegram where some love one is serving at the Front.

It is a familiar word today, although only a few years ago it was unknown. It means dust from silica rock. But in that one word is embodied the most appalling suffering, misery and inevitable death.

*

A FEW years ago, South Wales miners thought it was asthma or bronchitis that made them cough and struggle for breath, but as more and more miners gasped their lungs out it became obvious that it was something to do with their work that caused these symptoms and that they should legitimately come within the scope of Workmen's Compensation .

It has been a continuous battle between miners' lives and owners' profits. Doctors, geologists and scientists have been employed, alike by the South Wales Miners' Federation and the coalowners, to place responsibility.

Naturally, the resources of the coalowners have allowed them to wage unequal odds against the miners, because they have controlled the Governments in power as well as the working conditions in the coalfields.

It is two or three years before the full effects of the disease are felt; that is well known by the coalowners, and explains the character of the various amendments that have been made to the Workmen's Compensation Acts.
Every concession has been conceded grudgingly; all the time trying to evade direct responsibility and keeping up the pretence that something else might be the cause of illness or death.

The symptoms are a growing shortness of breath and a hacking cough. Sleep becomes impossible. Breathing means literally fighting for air. Windows are thrown open in mid-winter, and men in the throes of silicosis leave their beds in the middle of the night to come to the front door, gasping for breath and hoping if they get out into the open it will be easier.

Soon the effort to draw breath becomes a ghastly ordeal, for the lungs are caked as though with cement, and the effort frequently brings on a haemorrhage.

*

LET some of our silver-tongued Front Bench orators, and our star journalists whose brilliant pens have resulted in their being sent to the Western Front for material worthy of their skilful treatment walk through some of the little mining villages in West Wales in the silent watches of the night.

Let them listen to the coughing and gasping and fighting for breath that goes on behind the open window of tiny bedrooms, and let them use their gifts of speech and writing to describe the suffering they have witnessed in such a way that the public conscience is stirred to life and public pressure secures, once and for all, justice for these victims of the profit-making system.

What sort of justice do they get at present? If they are lucky enough to be able to prove their claim, they received the princely sum of 30s. a week as an absolute maximum. Before they get this miserable amount. the investigations they have to submit to leave you wondering whether we really do live in a civilised country or not.

Formerly, it was thought that silicosis only occurred in the anthracite area of South Wales, but each year the disease is creeping all over the South Wales coalfield, until today its shadow falls on thousands of homes. More and more parents fear to send their sons down the pits, and no wonder, when so many have stood by a miner's bedside and seen what silicosis has done to him.

*

I KNOW a splendid miner, who has tow brilliant children. Both have won scholarships of secondary schools. It is his ambition that his boys never see the bottom of a pit.

This miner knows he has contracted silicosis. His fight for breath tells him that. But to leave the pit, and get a job on the surface or find some other work would mean he could not earn the wages which today enable him to keep his children at school.

He calculates that he can last out long enough to see his children settled in better forms of employment and then he will gasp out his last breath, fighting for his children to live a dcent life which he knows all the time he will never be allowed to live.

That is working-class heroism ! That is valour, bravery and courage that eclipses everything that is done in the heat of battle, where the excitement, glamour, glory and the thoughts of reward and promotion inevitably play their part.

There is blood on the coal all right! It is time to make the people of this land realise that there are other fronts where their fellow-countrymen are fighting as well as the Western Front.

The public are not told about this sort of thing. About the miners who lie in a graveyard somewhere in Wales, known only to those of their family who mourn them.

No cenotaph is erected to their memory. No statesman will ever cite the example of their heroism. No posthumous medal will be given to their widows. No dramatic commentary will be heard on any newsreel or BBC broadcast. They are only workers killed in the industrial war!

It is time the whole Labour movement took up the fight for the miners against silicosis, time to ensure that all miners suffering as a result of their employment are guaranteed not only adequate compensation, enabling them to live in comfort, but that everything science can do to mitigate the effects of this dreadful industrial disease shall be exploited to the full in order to check this scourge.

-HARRY POLLITT
Daily Worker 17th April 1940"
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