Civic Reception for Liverpool Group
Snow flurries and a bitter wind did not deter stalwart supporters of the Merseyside Asbestos Victims Support Group (MAVSG) from turning out on Friday, March 22, 2013 to commemorate the Group's 20th anniversary. Victims, family members and concerned citizens joined the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Sharon Sullivan, and MP Steve Rotheram, MAVSG Honorary President, at Liverpool Town Hall to mark two decades of local, regional, national and international campaigning on behalf of asbestos victims.
Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Councillor Sharon Sullivan, Steve Rotheram MP (second from left) and members of MAVSG at Liverpool Town Hall (Photo: courtesy of Christopher Gregory).
Commenting on the significance of the anniversary, MAVSG Information Officer John Flanagan said: Generations on Merseyside have had first-hand experience of the deadly consequences of asbestos exposures. Building on what we have learned and working with our colleagues in the UK and overseas, MAVSG continues to play an active role in the struggle to achieve asbestos justice and ban the use of asbestos.
The MAVSG started life as the Liverpool and District Victims of Asbestos Support Group in March 1993 when a small group of local health and safety campaigners met to formulate their response to Liverpool's growing asbestos tragedy. The predictable consequence of decades of asbestos use on Merseyside was an increased incidence of asbestosis and asbestos cancer amongst dockers, construction workers, shipbuilders, laggers and factory workers. In 1993, the majority of sufferers seen by MAVSG had contracted asbestosis; people like Gerry Stanley who recalled: When I went into the Royal, the doctor said you have asbestosis and that was it. I got on the bus and went home. Amongst the earliest of MAVSG's clients were people who had worked in the dockside warehouses where bag recycling took place; most of those employed in this industrial sector were women and many of the hessian sacks they processed had been used for shipping asbestos.
The formation of MAVSG was facilitated by members of the Cheshire Asbestos Victims' Support Group, who had been campaigning about the asbestos hazard for a number of years.1 Even as MAVSG was finding its feet, discussions were ongoing about the formation of an asbestos victims' group in Manchester. As bad as things were in Liverpool, they could be expected to be even worse in Manchester considering the huge volume of asbestos cargo transited through its docks and the large number of people employed at the Trafford Park factory of the UK Asbestos Giant: Turner & Newall. In 1994 the Greater Manchester Asbestos Victims Support Group (GMAVSG) was formed. Given the common struggle of asbestos sufferers in Liverpool and Manchester, it was logical that the groups would collaborate. That they did so enthusiastically and effectively was of utmost importance not only for their constituents but also for sufferers all over the country who would come to benefit from their efforts.
After twenty years, it is right to take note of the accomplishments of the Merseyside group; there have been battles which have been won and battles which have been lost but whatever the eventual outcome over the last two decades the people from this group have engaged in the battles that needed to be fought. Long-time health and safety campaigner Rory O'Neill speaks for us all when he says:
Nationwide, asbestos victims and their families get a raw deal. There are a few stellar exceptions, where the pain of disease and loss is eased by expert and sympathetic advice and support. In Merseyside, MAVSG has for two decades provided a model that should be replicated nationwide. MAVSG has been crucial in supporting the local community and in securing improved rights and treatment for asbestos victims nationwide. It has played a critical role in reducing the deadly toll of asbestos.
April 8, 2013