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Monday, 14 August, 2000, 11:18 GMT 12:18 UK
White finger victims win compensation
Workman digging
The men suffered excessive vibration from machinery
Eight former employees of North West Water have been awarded 1.2m compensation after they contracted Vibration White Finger at work.

The men, from Merseyside, stopped working for the company in 1998 when they developed symptoms including loss of feeling, loss of grip, bleeding fingers and constant pain.

The GMB union said that during legal proceedings North West Water admitted negligence in exposing the workers to excessive vibration while they operated machinery.

The hand of a White Finger Vibration victim
The workmen developed loss of feeling and grip
Last year six British Gas workers were awarded 430,000 at Manchester County Court after developing the same condition.

GMB spokesman Brian Strutton said the payout for the water company workers was "a victory for working people" who helped generate North West Water's profits of 300m.

"Those who complain about the so-called 'compensation culture' should recognise that the only protection ordinary workers have against negligence and exploitation is the ability to hit companies where it hurts most, in their profits," he said.

Lose use of hands

The union claimed the men were not offered alternative jobs within the organisation and were suspended from duties.

Later a North West Water spokesman disputed these allegations, saying the company had held extensive discussions with the GMB and had offered the men retraining as part of a redeployment scheme.

He said the union would not endorse the scheme and was keen instead to progress medical retirement for those people affected.

"The employees were not dismissed. They retired from the company in 1998 on the grounds of ill-health," the spokesman added.

Vibration White Finger has been recognised as an industrial disease since 1911.

It is most commonly found among those who work with heavy vibrating machinery.

It affects the blood circulation and some sufferers can lose the use of their hands.

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