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Black lung sufferers receive govt damages

By Jiang Jie (Global Times)

09:30, July 08, 2013

Twenty-six workers with black lung disease have signed away their rights of appeal to a local government in Henan Province in exchange for 50,000 yuan ($8,155) each in compensation.

All 26 affected workers worked as stone crushers at the Dengfeng Guo'an Silica Company in central Henan Province before being diagnosed with black lung disease, or pneumoconiosis, the Beijing Times reported on Sunday.

After the company was shut down, the workers lost their medical compensation, which prompted them to appeal repeatedly to the local government.

According to the workers, the township government began to offer financial aid in 2009 on the condition that they signed an agreement to give up the rights to sue and to claim for other compensation.

The workers agreed in desperation and quickly spent the money to pay off their medical bills.

Yan Yiming, a laywer from the Yanyiming Law Firm in Shanghai, said that accepting money can mean renouncing the right to future claims, while they retain the right to sue the government for poor regulation.

"Such occupational diseases can be avoided if companies had offered enough protection to the workers under the government's supervision. Therefore, the workers maintain the rights to hold the government accountable if their health is affected," Yan noted.

Fan Xiaoyan, administrative secretary from the Love Save Pneumoconiosis, an organization specializing in aiding those with black lung disease, said these workers have no choice but to accept the settlement, even though the money is obviously far from enough.

"The whole appeal process is so complicated and time-consuming that they would rather sacrifice their rights for some money," Fan said.

The workers must prove they contracted the disease from a job by presenting an employment contract and proof of exposure. "The problem is, most of the workers don't have any contract at all," Fan said.

The affected workers, after their company was closed, often had their appeals rejected in court and arbitration organs since they could not show proof of work or proof of exposure.

After the media exposed the agreement, local government in Dengfeng admitted that the contract is inappropriate.

Liu Zhiwei, an official from the local judicial offices, told the Beijing Times that the government had apologized to the workers and tried to revise the agreement but it is difficult for the government to solve all their problems.

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