An eight year battle for compensation has come to a successful end for two Wearside Unite members who were exposed to dangerous dust in the workplace.

The men, who both worked in the melting department for well known Southwick factory, Federal Mogul, have both received substantial sums in compensation in an out of court settlement.

They waited almost a decade for the settlement after Federal Mogul went into administration in 2001 freezing hundreds of compensation claims against the company across the North East and the rest of the UK.

Claims against the company only became ‘active’ again last year.

Exposed to Silica Dust at Work

The men both suffer from silicosis, an occupational lung disease caused by inhaling silica dust. The condition is debilitating and in severe cases can lead to death.

They were exposed to the dust while working for Hepworth and Grandage Ltd, later known as Federal Mogul (Sunderland) Limited, as furnace men between the 1970s and late 1990s.

The factory, which closed in 2002, made piston rings for the motor industry.

Working with Silica without suitable protection

Raymond Minto, 59, from West Boldon, started work at the factory in 1969. His job involved stripping out furnaces and relining them with silica mix.

He remembered the job as ‘filthy’ and being surrounded by dust with just a rubber mask, gloves and ear defenders for protection.

He said the company stores would often run out of replacement filters for the masks.

Raymond, who has two children and two grandchildren, first noticed problems with his chest in 1986 but was not diagnosed with silicosis until 1998. He took voluntary redundancy in 2000 blaming his ill health for his decision. He has been unable to work since.

He said: “Silicosis has affected my life. I will never work again and there are now limitations to what I can do. I can still get about and do the gardening but everything takes me longer.

“If it hadn’t been for getting this disease I would have been employed by Federal Mogul right up until the factory closed in 2002. After that I would have found another job because I wanted to work until normal retirement age.

“It has been a long wait for this compensation. It’s a relief it’s now settled. I know I will never work again and financially this is going to help me and my family.”

Silicosis caused lung to collapse

The second Wearside man, from Silksworth in Sunderland, who does not wish to be named, also worked as a furnace man from 1970 to 1999 and was forced to take early retirement aged only 52.

Now 60, he said it has been a long frustrating wait for compensation. He said: “I first became ill when my lung collapsed and I was shocked to find out I had this disease. However, I knew straight way that my work had caused it.

“I decided to pursue compensation because I felt Federal Mogul should pay for my ill health. When the company went into administration I thought I would never get any compensation from them.

“It was a great relief to finally find out we had won.”

Both cases were supported by the trade union, Unite.

North East Regional Secretary of Unite, Davey Hall said: “I’m pleased that our members are now at the end of an eight year wait for compensation.

“Those with compensation claims against Federal Mogul have been in limbo for a number of years but the light is finally at the end of the tunnel for those exposed to dangerous substances while working for the company.”

Andrew Venn of Thompsons Solicitors in Newcastle who represented Mr Minto and his colleague. said: “Federal Mogul exposed hundreds of workers in the North East to dangerous substances including asbestos and silica.

“For many years these claims were frozen by the Court. However, with the support of the union we are now obtaining compensation for many families who have been harmed by Federal Mogul’s negligent working practices in the past.

This news story was also published by Sunderland Echo.