Paul/Union Gripes

Question: I’m getting the same info from my union (as I have mentioned before) – in that they are saying some people are more ‘genetically disposed’ to RSIs – They have practically said they won’t support me in a claim if my consultants diagnosis is carpal tunnel as this is a genetic problem that predominantly affects women’ . They have also said the last tenosynovitis claim they had was thrown out because a specialist had disagreed with the individuals own consultant, so they are not sure if they would support another tenosynovitis claim. Father Christmas still visits too!
Personally, I think they just aren’t prepared to put up the A3s unless they’re convinced they’ll win!!
The joys of paying subs to a union who won’t help!! Continuing my union gripe (sorry folks, it’s been a bad day!)I got my latest union newsletter today, which stated my case (they didn’t name me but they might as well have.) which had inaccuracies which reflected badly on my bosses resulting in me once again being miss least popular at work having being back for 3 weeks after 4 months off sick. It also failed to mention that the union had achieved, well precisely nothing, but give me duff information. Still at least I’ve finally got my consultants appointment so hopefully that’s a little glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel!

Answer 1:  I suggest they look at the BMA literature. Take any BMA Handbook (any *recent*) BMA Handbook along and read it out to them. Tenosynovitis is a listed industrial injury, which has been in the textbooks *forever*! There is a case for not calling it RSI not because it isn’t, but because it’s been diagnosed for so long. I have De Quatrain’s tenosynovitis. It is one of only two recognized by my union. Why. I assume, because you can win cases with it.
One of the 2 massive settlements recently, both *to women*, was for tenosynovitis. The other was for stress.  (The employer’s consultant disagreed? No kidding! That’s what happens in courts.)
You’ll probably find Unison has legal expenses’ insurance. It will be a lot cheaper per head than mine, it would have to be, and the fact that it will also cover more narrow areas will not make up for that difference.
The insurance company won’t fund a case unless they think you have a case (mine will if a solicitor says you have a case, but their own lawyers, who are, pleasantly, much more militant than certain union branches that might possibly exist, 😉 said I had one, cast-iron [not injury; a different area of law]). And I am told that their lawyers like to settle a case. But settling is good enough. Good, isn’t it? My union never did anything like that: it should be stopped. I hope things get better for you. I just wonder what if anything can be done about all this. When I was still working, that is, in salaried appointment, I was overworked and so too tired to do anything about this stuff. But this makes unions who are just not doing enough, nearly enough.

Answer 2: I’m appealed to say – My Union newsletter previously referred to, several pages on, made a big issue of recently being at the TUC conference, and how being a member of the TUC benefits us all in the union – I’m dying to name & shame them – but as it’s a staff association (the only union my employer recognizes) I suppose I’d best not. However, once again, thanks for the info. Once I’ve seen my consultant, I shall definitely refer it to my union. Where would I be without out you?

Answer 3: Perhaps it is worth pulling together cases histories such as these and presenting them to both TUC and the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers in an effort to convince them to produce guidance – including direction to the personal injury solicitors they pay for (and the consultants they in turn retain). As the person who earlier defended the union role, I’d be happy to co-ordinate this.
On Catherine’s case, the unions are all well aware of the sexist nature of strains medicals – or have no excuse not to be. Karen Messing, the author of One-eyed science: Occupational health and women workers and a speaker at a recent TUC conference on women’s health at work, has highlighted the carpal tunnel issue frequently. For information, the Swedish union TCO is currently taking its government to the European Court for introducing sexist industrial injuries benefits provisions, particularly as they related to strains compensation. Its criticisms apply equally to the UK benefits system.

Answer 4: I haven’t yet had cause to pursue this any further, but when I approached my union – NATFHE – to enquire about the possibilities of early retirement on the grounds of disability, I was told by my local branch officer that they would assist and support.
Has anyone any experience with NATFHE at the next stage on this?

Answer 5: Not with NATFHE, no. I am fairly sure my Pension Fund’s Rules would differ from yours. But if I can help you with this in any way at all, let me know, off-list

Answer 6: I am curious. What do they mean by a ‘genetic’ link? How are we predisposed to carpal tunnel syndrome!?

Answer 7: (Deep breaths before saying this!) According to my union it’s all to blame (carpal tunnel, which is) on, surprise, surprise, and our hormones! (And they reckon they have it on ‘good authority’) Sadly, this is the actual, full time. Paid union officers saying this, not just local reps – infect, there are no local reps within 100 miles of me! The curse of being a woman?

Answer 8: My reply to this would be short, sharp and writeable in four letters. The LAW requires that the job is changed to fit the person not the person for the job. A higher standard of care is required for someone who is more likely to be injured (for example a person doing manual handling with a known history of back injuries). An employee in a wheelchair who was injured because their job risk assessment did not take this into account would have a clear case for compensation. The employer IS IN BREACH OF THE HEALTH AND SAFETY AT WORK ETC ACT, under which these regulations are made if you, being a woman are more at risk and he does not protect you from that risk.
If you’ll let me (privately) know which Union and the names of the officers who are talking such ****, I’ll take this up directly with their Union Safety Advisers directly (I may actually know them personally).

Answer 9: Please can you quote the actual statute or whatever with the paragraph and clause – my employer wants to know where he can read this before he will take any action.

Answer 10: The first and most general place will always be the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Section 2 (i) says “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health safety and welfare of all his employees”
This is clear – if your employees H,S and W are not ensured because you do not take their individuality into account, then you have fallen at this hurdle.
I don’t have a copy of the DSE rags to hand at this instant (they’re all out on loan) but there is no doubt that this is required and inherent in this set of regulations too.
Your employer should contact the HSE locally. They are the experts who should be answering this (and they will!), indeed your employer has a duty to familiarize himself with the law, not expect a member of another employer’s safety team to find out for him! (I’m doing this because you are a member of this list)
The check lists within the DSE rags include specific points relating to the individual and that individual’s working area and it is a basic principle of risk assessment that the individual’s capability MUST be considered. There is no use expecting someone in a wheelchair to safely climb a ladder, for instance.
Ring your local HSE Office and get them to send some free literature!

Answer 11: Well, you got it, didn’t you? So you must be predisposed to it! Someone who works in my former Department told me I must have weak wrists (or I wouldn’t have got RSI…). Again <cracked record…? My doctor, the consultant he sent me to, and the Union (and the Director of Personnel Services) said nothing like that ever.
Maybe everybody here still in employment should photocopy bits from BMA Handbooks etc. and keep them on their Office wall.
There was a not entirely silly discussion of the hereditary business somewhere (I’ll try to track it down): the basic conclusion was that there certainly were families where there was more than one case of this, but those families most probably had more than one person doing too much repetitive strain work.
My mother got “Frozen Shoulder” from doing too much sewing with an old manual sewing machine. It was work she had to do.
A lot of manual workers get RSI and have been getting it since, well, at least since the middle of the 19th century. It wouldn’t be surprising if it began to run in families.
Has anyone asked these people who isolated the RSI gene?

Answer 12: Can anyone help?
I returned to work 7 weeks after having my baby. On returning my Manager had changed some of my normal Clerical duties to that of excessive data inputting & moving of heavy boxes. The pain came about a month later and has been there (& gradually getting worse) for the past 2 years and has only recently been diagnosed as RSI.6 Months after the pain began, whilst opening my Managers post, I saw that only then had he requested the procedure for Health & Safety for Pregnant & New Mothers. This clearly stated that women’s ligaments & muscles are weaker for up to 12 months after having a baby.
Could he be liable as he did not take this into account? He infect kept trying to say it was my baby’s fault for being too heavy!
Can anyone advise me? My Union has been helpful but I’m afraid of taking a risk.

Answer 13: There can be no doubt. Your employer has a duty to inform himself of the law and ignorance is no defense in the eyes of the law. Under no circumstances should a new mother be expected to lift heavy objects or do any work that may strain the joints. During the last three months of pregnancy and in particular the first three months after birth (but as stated this may last up to 12 months), the joints and ligaments have been changed biologically to allow for the opening of the birth canal.
While you will have a good case in law for the manual handling, I don’t know whether the keyboard work will be affected or not. Exclusion of heavy manual handling for pregnant and nursing mothers is SPECIFICALLY mentioned in the Manual Handling Operations Regulations and Guidance 1992 (See page 19 sections 99 of guidance). This is a combined document ISBN 0-11-886335-5 and costs the princely
sum of GBP5.
However the most important thing is to get you well and out of pain again, so you can enjoy your child (compensation is all very well, but …). I hope some of the ideas on the list will help with this.
Get the Union to talk seriously to your employer, who is now on a “hiding to nothing”. He can be criminally prosecuted for not protecting you if the facts are as stated (I’m not doubting you but can you prove it), that he can’t insure against!


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