A Newcastle man who developed a painful repetitive strain injury that forced him to give up his job  has secured £100,000 in compensation with backing from his trade union, Unite.

Colin Reay, 42, worked as an operative in the ‘Line 1 ED Sanding/Surfacer Spray’ department of the Nissan Motor Manufacturing (UK) Ltd plant on Washington Road in Sunderland, but was asked by management to move to the ‘Line 1 Check and Repair’ department as they were low on staff.

“When I moved departments I was told that I’d rotate between three different jobs, like my colleagues did,” said Colin. “But after a few days on the wax booth, I realised this wasn’t going to be the case.”

An image of Colin Reay
Colin Reay, from Newcastle

In the new department, Colin would repeatedly climb up and down a small set of stairs in order to work on individual cars. In an average shift, Colin estimates he worked on upwards of 450 cars, without rotating to other duties.

In November 2014, a month after moving to this role, Colin asked bosses why he wasn’t being rotated - but his concerns went unanswered. By May 2015, he began suffering serious pain in his right knee, and was later diagnosed with significant damage to the cartilage there – known as a chondral flap. By June 2016, he was asked to leave Nissan as his employer claimed he had taken unauthorised absences – despite his GP and an orthopaedic consultant telling him he was unfit to work.

The injuries, compiled with his employers’ claims that they were not at fault for what happened, also caused Colin to suffer a nervous breakdown. 

“Talk about adding insult to injury. I couldn’t believe how Nissan treated me,” said Colin. “First they put my health at risk. Then they ignored my concerns. Then they laid me off.”

Colin turned to Unite Legal Services and Thompsons Solicitors who together secured £100,000 for him in damages.

“I don’t know what I would have done without Unite and Thompsons,” he said. “Nissan was refusing to admit any wrongdoing. I even contacted the Health and Safety Executive to investigate, but that didn’t make Nissan take my injuries any more seriously.

“In the end it took the hard work of Unite Legal Services and Thompsons Solicitors, who know better than most how to deal with difficult employers, to get Nissan to acknowledge that the company was in the wrong, not me.

“Luckily, I’ve been able to take on some alternative part-time work, but my knee is going to restrict my future employability and that is a bitter pill to swallow,” explained Colin.

“Not only that, but the effects on my personal life have been huge. I can’t go running and I struggle to play with my children. I feel like this injury has aged me by almost 30 years.”

Karen Reay, North East, Yorkshire and Humberside regional secretary at Unite the Union, said: “This was a complex case made more difficult by Nissan defending its position vigorously until the case nearly came to trial. Our legal team and the experts at Thompsons obtained a number of witness statements from colleagues supporting Colin’s claim, including a Unite steward, as well as reports from medical experts. It was only through this that Nissan saw no other option that to admit fault and pay Colin a fair compensation for the pain and financial hardships this injury has caused him.”