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Record white finger pay-out

Utility faces further compensation claims after paying £1.2 million to eight men in out-of-court settlement

NORTH West Water could be hit by a flood of compensation claims following a record £1.2 million pay-out to eight former employees who contracted vibration white finger.

The men were suspended by the utility in 1998 after contracting the crippling condition, with symptoms including bleeding from fingers and hands, loss of grip and constant pain.

General union GMB hailed the pay-out as a 'victory for working people' after North West Water settled out of court.

The company earlier admitted negligence in exposing the workers to excessive vibration, during the operation of jack hammers and vibrating whackers while they worked on maintaining the supply network.

Now Construction News has learned that the utility's insurers are handling several further similar claims from former employees.

The GMB accused the company ofsacking the men after they contracted the disease in 1998, but North West Water has refuted the allegation, claiming they retired on grounds of ill health.

GMB utilities spokesman Brian Strutton said: 'Last year North West Water made profits in excess of £300 million, and this award is justice for those workers who helped generate those profits, only to be repaid by crippling injury.'

A North West Water spokesman confirmed that other white finger claims were pending but would not give any details.

In a statement, the company said: 'These claims have been handled by an external insurance company which notified North West Water that the settlement had been reached.

'The water company had held extensive discussions with the GMB union and offered the individuals concerned retraining as part of a redeployment scheme.'

Vibration white finger is believed to affect about 300,000 people in Britain, according to the Medical Research Council.