Thursday, January 27, 2005

Asbestos Kills. James Hardie Knew

James Hardie, that generous and caring company responsible for the deaths and illness of thousands of Australian workers, is now under fire in Asia and the Pacific. Aparently they lied and made their workers sick not just in Australia, but also in New Zealand, and Indonesia.
The Netherlands-based firm is under pressure to extend the deal, initially worth 1.5 billion Australian dollars (1.15 billion US), to thousands of victims in Asia and the Pacific, The Australian newspaper said.

Union leaders and politicians have called on the company to pay compensation in countries where it manufactured or sold asbestos products on the same terms as the Australian deal, it said.

Specifically cited were New Zealand, where James Hardie made asbestos products for 45 years, and Indonesia, where a company that acquired its factory in 1985 was still producing asbestos goods, the newspaper said.

"These are people who have suffered because of James Hardie's products and their lives have been cut short or debilitated," Andrew Little, national secretary of the New Zealand Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union told the newspaper.

I have no doubt that James Hardie will continue to weasel its way out of any liability. In countries like Indonesia and other Asia-Pacific nations, there are few protections for workers, and I expect that it is the same in New Zealand, where industrial laws protecting workers were all but abolished by successive Tory governments.

There needs to be comprehensive international laws (such as industrial manslaughter laws) which make individuals in companies responsible for the injuries committed by the company with their knowledge, consent or authority.


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