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Byline: Jon Griffin

SEVENTY-NINE ex-Longbridge workers have won up to pounds 1 million after a seven-year battle following the world's largest outbreak of occupational lung disease.

Former employees at the Powertrain engine plant who brought claims for compensation have received awards ranging from pounds 500 up to pounds 180,000.

The victory for the former workers follows a seven-year legal fight dating back to Easter 2003 when exposure to metal working fluids led to increasing numbers of staff illnesses, including severe breathing difficulties.

In 2006 the Health and Safety Executive revealed that mist from metal working machines had caused the disease outbreak, which had led to a total of more than 100 workers being afflicted.

The HSE said the metalworking fluids had not been main-tained sufficiently, allowing the build-up and continued growth of bacteria and other potentially harmful substances.

Personal injury claims of occupational asthma against the insurers of MG Rover were pursued and a civil case had been listed for trial in May next year - but an out of court settlement has now been reached following lengthy negotiations. Unite the union said in a statement: "All claims have now been settled, the total damages paid by the defendant is a little under pounds 1 million, individual settlements ranging from pounds 500 to pounds 180,000 for the claimants."

John Walsh, of Unite the union, said: "I am delighted that after a seven-year legal battle our members have now received compensation that has been owed to them since they suffered ill-health back in 2003-04; it is a pity that it has taken this long."

Karl de Loyde of Thompsons solicitors said: "We invited the defendants' legal team to meet us and negotiate settlement back in 2006. They refused and have denied liability throughout; it was only after the final exchange of technical expert evidence that the defendants were forced to acknowledge they were likely to lose at trial, and were forced to negotiate with us."

Powertrain Ltd was the former engine-building division of MG Rover, based in the East Works at Longbridge. Metal-working fluids were used in the manufacturing process, supplied by independent contractor Houghton PLC.

Powertrain subsequently brought a separate legal claim against Houghton PLC, based on allegations of breach of contract that the firm had failed to ensure the fluids were safe for use. In 2007 the HSE said 87 workers had been struck down with occupational asthma and a further 24 with extrinsic allergic alveolitis, with the worst affected hit by both diseases.



Legal battle: The workers had been emplyed by Powertrain, based at Longbridge.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Dec 16, 2010
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