ACTU to fight James Hardie on asbestos compo

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has threatened
to take legal action if James Hardie attempts to pay asbestos victims
compensation in instalments.

AAP reports that there have been suggestions that James
Hardie may attempt to change the way compensation is paid, in order to be able
to meet the higher the expected number of claims.

According to ACTU secretary Dave Oliver, such a move would
not be accepted by the union movement and would be challenged in the Supreme
Court.

“Asbestos victims do not die by instalments and should
not be paid by instalments,” he said.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer and on average victims die
within 155 days of a diagnosis.

Earlier this month, it became apparent that James Hardie’s asbestos
related claims for the first half of 2014 were 5 per cent higher than for the
corresponding period in 2014. In addition, the second quarter claims were 12
per cent than the corresponding period last year.

Claims from the company’s asbestos victims for the first
quarter were 19 per cent higher than actuarial estimates. Claims for the half
were 10 per cent higher than actuarial estimates.

In September, the Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund (AICF)
board told James Hardie that it was likely to not have sufficient funds to pay
out claims by 2017.

As such, the AICF proposed an approved payment scheme to cover the compensation claims. This would mean the company would pay money in
instalments, rather than as a lump sum.

The company came in for criticism for being in this
position, as it has been able to pay shareholders dividends of almost $600m in
the last two years.

Critics such as Senator Nick Xenophon said that money should
have gone to asbestos victims.

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