#CAPEMUSTPAY CAMPAIGN HOTS UP – Asbestos victims call on French & New Zealand rugby teams to end ‘sportswashing’ sponsorship deals with Altrad
UK and French anti-asbestos campaigners and asbestos victims are protesting outside the France vs New Zealand rugby match at the Stade de France on Friday 8th September 2023. A Press conference will take place at 6pm French time on Friday 8th September at the ANDEVA office: 8 Rue Charles Pathé, 94300 Vincennes, France. To explain what it is all about Joanne Candlish, Partner in our Asbestos team explains.
The Asbestos Victims Support Groups Forum UK (AVSGF.UK), the national organisation representing asbestos victims and their families, is demanding that Cape, a former asbestos manufacturer, now owned by Altrad, donate £10 million to mesothelioma research. Mesothelioma is an under-researched terminal cancer caused by asbestos.
Altrad is Cape’s ultimate parent company and purchased Cape in 2017. Altrad’s acquisition of Cape for £332 million in 2017 was a sufficiently attractive commercial proposition to take on Cape’s liabilities to meet asbestos related legal claims, for which Cape had already set up a fund. The fund is no more than a vehicle to cover Cape’s legal liabilities in negligence. It has nothing to do with the request for a donation for research
Cape Plc was one of the largest asbestos companies in the world, with mining interests in South Africa as well as factories in the UK. Their asbestos products were widely used in construction in this country, especially Asbestolux and Marinite insulation boards. These products are at the heart of the mesothelioma epidemic in the UK, as well as being responsible for other asbestos diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening. It is impossible to know how many people have been exposed to asbestos dust worldwide as a result of contact with Cape’s asbestos products but it must run into billions of people. Exposure to dust from their products continues today – this is not just a historic issue that has gone away. Cape Plc has made huge profits over the years through their asbestos products and people are developing serious asbestos diseases as a result of Cape’s good fortune. It is only right that Cape should help pay for research into mesothelioma.
For over 30 years I have acted for asbestos victims and their families following their devastating diagnosis of asbestos related conditions. A great deal of those victims have been exposed to asbestos products made by Cape Plc. I have acted not only for Cape employees who worked in their factories and mills in Barking in London and Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire, but also for many tradesmen some of who were directly employed by Cape via their subsidiary, Cape Contracts, as thermal insulation workers or “laggers” as they were known. I have also acted for many scaffolders, pipe fitters, joiners, roofers, fascia fitters and other construction workers who had been exposed to lethal asbestos fibres from using Cape products such as Caposite and Caposil which are types of pre-formed asbestos pipe lagging and Asbestolux and Marinite which are asbestos insulation boards. However, I have also represented women who have contracted mesothelioma from washing their husband’s contaminated work clothes and even children who grew up and played in the streets near to Cape factories.
The UK has the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world, with around 2,500 people dying of this disease each year. A similar number each year are diagnosed with asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). More people die of mesothelioma than in road traffic accidents. Despite this mesothelioma is an under researched cancer and there is still no cure
Most victims develop mesothelioma as a result of just going to work, to put food on their family’s plates and a roof over their heads. They were not protected or warned of the real dangers of working with asbestos. It is often not until decades later that mesothelioma or another asbestos-related disease rears its ugly head.
In 2017 AVSGF.UK started a legal fight to obtain documents that Cape had been forced to disclose in an earlier court case. Following a lengthy court battle that Cape fought hard against The Supreme Court granted AVSGF.UK access to many of these documents which show that Cape hid the true dangers of their asbestos products from the public and regulators from the 1950s to the 1980s. Whilst Cape were hiding this information away, they were making huge profits.
These documents show that Cape:
- Downplayed the fatal risks of working with their products and encouraged others to suppress this information;
- Withheld their own data which showed that handling and working with their asbestos products gave off far more asbestos dust than had been previously admitted or allowed by Government standards;
- Successfully lobbied the Government to weaken allowable exposure limits and product warnings.
Cape did all this despite knowing of the link between asbestos and mesothelioma. They put their profits before the lives of their own workers and those of transport workers moving their products, joiners and other construction workers using their products and the women who developed mesothelioma through washing their husbands’ asbestos contaminated overalls. The actions they took then are the reason people are dying of mesothelioma today and why thousands more will die in the future. Medical research is desperately needed to find a cure for mesothelioma to help future mesothelioma victims – those future victims are walking around today and do not yet know they will be victims of Cape’s greed.
Following the 2019 legal victory, AVSGF.UK has campaigned for Cape to donate £10 million to mesothelioma research, in recognition of what they have done to innocent people.
Despite their central role in the mesothelioma epidemic in the UK, Cape has made no contribution to mesothelioma research that we are aware of. Money is desperately needed for better treatment and a cure for this dreadful disease. Cape is a wealthy company with £165.5 million in reserves from profits accumulated on the backs of those they exposed to asbestos.
The Partners and Solicitors from HJA’s specialist Asbestos Team have attended a number of demonstrations outside Cape/Altrad’s Offices in Warrington and Rotherham and at the Cape victims’ memorial in Barking. All the Partners within our Asbestos Team have a wealth of experience in dealing with claims involving Cape products and see first-hand on a daily basis the devastating effect mesothelioma has on those it has affected and their families.
The Campaign has intensified with AVSGF.UK writing to both the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition to ask for a moratorium on new UK public contracts being awarded to global industrial services giant Altrad.
On 10th May 2023, Altrad announced on their website that they had been awarded a major £30.8 million contract for decommissioning and asbestos removal at Berkeley Power Station in Gloucestershire. This is the equivalent of paying an arsonist to clean up and rebuild after a fire they had started. These are Government Contracts paid for by all of us as tax payers. This is shocking and should not be allowed.
A generation ago Cape profited from asbestos. Today, Altrad is being given taxpayer money for asbestos removal. This cannot be right. It cannot be allowed to continue. Thousands of people still die from asbestos disease every year and this will continue into the future.
Rob Rayner, Chair of AVSGF.UK said: “Cape’s asbestos products are responsible for many deaths. As Cape’s parent company, Altrad has a moral obligation to put right some of the wrong that has been done. Altrad is a global brand, and a major sponsor of the French and New Zealand ruby teams. It is incomprehensible that they cannot find £10 million for mesothelioma research. In the eyes of asbestos victims, Altrad’s sponsorship of the French and New Zealand rugby teams is an insult, both to the sport and to the fans”.
Ian Lavery MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health, said: “Cape’s asbestos products put people in harm’s way, with devastating consequences. A significant donation to mesothelioma research would go a long way to atone for what they did”.
We stand with the AVSGF.UK and demand that Cape now donate £10 million to fund medical research to find a cure for mesothelioma. It is the least asbestos victims and their families deserve.
The Cape Must Pay! Campaign has gained cross-party support from MPs, the backing of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health and the TUC.
Please sign the petition here to support the campaign
Please contact your MP to ask them to sign Early Day Motion 93
Plus tweet about the campaign using the hashtag #CapeMustPay
If you or anyone you know has been exposed to asbestos whether as an employee, or from using capes products, or washing the asbestos contaminated work clothes of a loved one and require legal advice in relation to seeking compensation, please contact our Asbestos & Mesothelioma Compensation Team on 0808 271 9413 for confidential and expert advice.
They treat every client as an individual and strive to take away the worry of a legal claim. Their services are available at no financial risk to you.
1 There were 2,268 deaths from mesothelioma in Great Britain in 2021, and asbestos-related cancers continue to be the UK’s largest cause of workplace death. This is due to a latency period between exposure and illness which is typically between 10 and 60 years.
2 The #CapeMustPay campaign has gained cross party support, the backing of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health, and the backing of the TUC.
3 To date, 39 MPs have signed Early Day Motion 93 (tabled 23rd May 2023) in support of the campaign. See: https://edm.parliament.uk/early-day-motion/59797/cape-holdings-and-asbestos-research
4 On 10th July 2023, HJA asbestos team stood alongside asbestos victims and anti-asbestos campaigners & laid wreaths at the memorial to asbestos victims in Barking Town Square. Cape had an asbestos factory in Barking until 1968. Barking & Dagenham has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the country. The same day, Parliamentarians met Cape Must Pay! campaigners on Parliament Square to show their support.
5 On the 17th July HJA Asbestos team once again stood alongside asbestos victims and anti-asbestos campaigners outside the Altrad office in Warrington.
6 On 16th August 2023, HJA asbestos team joined another peaceful protest outside the Altrad office in Rotherham.
7 Mesothelioma is a terminal cancer caused by (sometimes very low) exposure to asbestos. Average prognosis is very poor, at around 12 months. Research into treatments for mesothelioma is chronically underfunded compared to that for other cancers.
8 Altrad’s announcement of the £30.8 million Berkeley Power Station contract can be found here: https://uk.altradservices.com/altrad-have-been-awarded-a-major-decommissioning-and-clean-up-contract-from-magnox-at-their-berkeley-nuclear-power-station-gloucestershire-south-west-england/
9 Details of Altrad’s sponsorship of the French & New Zealand rugby teams can be found here: https://www.altrad.com/en/rugby-partnerships.html . The two teams play each other at the Stadt de France for the opening game of the Rugby World Cup on 8th September 2023.