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Asbestos Event In Liverpool
At Friends Meeting House - Derek Maylor Reports

John Flanagan opened the event and the first speaker was Dr Charlie Clutterbrook. He was part of a group of radical scientists when he started out at BSSRS in 1968, known as “pollution man”, and when the organisation changed its name to include the word socialist it split the organisation and it lost a lot of members. They went on to produce Hazard Bulletins which evolved into the excellent hard campaigning Hazards organisation we know today. One of the early associates Alan Dalton, wrote the book “Asbestos Killer Dust” which many USRs will have seen during their research on asbestos during their CWU training. 

At the time, the 1960s and 1970s a lot of trade union publicity was about the amount of compensation they could get for their members; some banked on compensation for recruitment and health and safety was wrapped up in legal departments eg. TGWU, NUM, NUAAW.

The TU movement thirty years ago were not rushing to get involved in the banning of asbestos. The TGWU were the first to call for a ban on crocidolite and although the TUC came close to banning it, at the final stage, the TUC accepted the continued use of crocidolite providing there was health monitoring and statuary workplace level, the licencing of operators and the appointment of competant persons to oversee controls. So, the TUC dropped the objection and at the time there was little in the press.

However the Asbestos Regulations 1969 Bill  was the last one passed by the Wilson Government.
Harminder Bains from Leigh Day talked about some of the recent, and current asbestos related cases in UK courts.

She was quite happy to name names including Robert Moore who was spying for the K2 Intelligence Agency and paid hundreds of thousands of pounds to do so, befriending asbestos campiangers, attending meetings to be seen to support the people he was taking information on; this wasn’t years ago but was in the UK Supreme Court this year. The money was coming via Kazakhstan who mine asbestos, as do Russia and Brazil.

They were made to release 30k pages of information, transcipts of telephone conversations and minutes of meetings from those who campaign in the UK against the asbestos industry. Royal Court of Justice case HQ1603417.  A further case is ongoing but again up to the Supreme Court on Cape International Holdings Ltd. UKSC 2018/0184 where some documentation has been released but some witheld so again the legal case is escalated to get their release. All sounds like some heavy handed bullying industrialists in a foriegn country not UK in 2019.   

Pic: Bill LawrenceBill Lawrence noted that the UK, both Government and industry, knew widely, clearly and unequivocally since 1920s that asbestos kills (see my Uni work for further info on this including Turner and Newall and the odious MP Smith).  Workplace legislation is only put in place by ordinary people campaigning, an individual gets support from colleagues, they get support from their union, the union gets support from the TUC, the TUC gets support from Labour Party and we wait for them to get in to government to get it as business in Parliament. 

As mentioned, asbestos is mined in Russia and 74,000 workers rely on it for a living, and also for an early death. 60% of asbestos trade is made in London by five companies and in Edinburgh by one. Asbestos dealing companies often have a front business one being a food supplier which lost £3/4m last year but keeps trading.

The Branch and the CWU has always supported MAVSG, when I was helping them directly Billy Hayes agreed to speak at WMD a few years ago, followed by Tony Kearns the following April, Jamie has been involved in organising the last few WMD events. However, we could further look to support some of the work being done by the ship breakers in India or Bangladesh by some sort of twinning arrangement.

Depending on Brexit and the worst case trade deal scenario we could end up with asbestos and/or asbestos containing materials being imported from USA where asbestos is not banned and still used by industry despite the campaigning of ADAO. 40,000 Americans a year die from asbestos related diseases which could come to Liverpool Port and the Branch, CWU and other unions would be at the front of the docks to prevent it being distributed around the UK.

The motion was put to the meeting “That this meeting demand from all political parties a guarantee that the ban on asbestos and asbestos containing material will continue if the UK leave the European Union” – unanimously agreed. 

Derek Maylor 19th October 2019

Further sources:

Pics: Derek Maylor

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