BATTLING ex-cokework employees from South Tyneside will have their fight for justice heard in court.
A date has been set for the High Court to review the progress of about 350 former coke oven works illness claims against British Steel and British Coal.
This will include claims lodged by former workers at Monkton Cokeworks in Hebburn, which closed in 1992, after a long and high-profile people’s protest against the works, which had operated since 1936.
Led by Hebburn-based former county councillor Jennie Shearan, protesters living near the borough plant claimed it had sparked serious medical issues among the local population, including respiratory problems.
The new legal fight involves former coke oven workers, who claim they have been left with cancers and respiratory diseases because of exposure to harmful dust and fumes, several decades ago.
Law firms Irwin Mitchell and Hugh James are working jointly on two large group litigation claims against British Steel and British Coal. A spokesman for Irwin Mitchell confirmed that ex-workers from the former Monkton Cokeworks plant are among the 350 people fighting for justice.
Formal legal action in the case was launched last October and the High Court has confirmed it will review the progress of the claims on October 16.
A landmark judgement against a Phurnacite plant in South Wales in the High Court in 2012 paved the way for the legal action in other regions, including the North East, Yorkshire, Humberside, Derbyshire and South Wales.
The majority of the affected workers were employed in a range of occupations at coke oven works, such as Monkton, between the 1940s and 1980s.
Some of these ex-employees now suffer from cancer, emphysema, asthma and chronic bronchitis.
Lawyers for the former cokework employees allege British Steel Corporation and British Coal Corporation and their subsidiaries failed to correctly assess the risk of working in coke ovens, and failed to adequately protect workers from significant dust and fumes.
Roger Maddocks, a specialist workplace illness lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Hundreds of former coke oven workers are now suffering from terrible conditions, simply because of the work they carried out on a day-to-day basis.
“Employees have a basic right to be able to go to work and return home safely at the end of the day.”
In August 2012, former coke oven workers suffering from lung cancer became entitled to industrial injuries disablement benefit, subject to meeting certain employment-related criteria.