Felixstowe: Factory workers put forward case for compensation

FORMER workers at a Felixstowe factory are today putting together a case for compensation after being told they are suffering from asbestos-related diseases.

They have launched an appeal for ex-colleagues to come forward who might be suffering, but who also might have vital paperwork which could hold crucial details for their claims.

The group were employed at Estuary Caravans, making caravans for the export market in the 1960s and 1970s.

But the factory – which stood opposite the Felixstowe Beach Holiday Park in Walton Avenue – closed down in 1980 after 16 years of production, employing around 180 workers at the time and hundreds over the years.

Former factory shop steward Harry Butcher, who lives with his wife Marie in The Walk, Walton, Felixstowe, said he had been in touch with several people suffering various illnesses and also knew of a handful who had died and it was believed their asbestos-related diseases may have come from the same source.

He said he was suffering from thickening pleural plaque, which had reduced his lung capacity by 25 per cent.

“I was having difficult in breathing, doing physical exercise like swimming, and at first I thought it was just because I was getting on in years,” said Mr Butcher, now in his 70s.

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“I was quite shocked when the doctor said it was asbestos which had caused it.

“It’s never going to get any better and it could get worse. I can’t swim now and going upstairs makes me out of breath.

“When we worked at the caravan factory – I was there 12 years – we didn’t know anything about it. There was lots of asbestos involved in the manufacture of the caravans and it was being cut up and the dust would have been everywhere.”

Another former worker at the factory, ex charge-hand Tony Lay, of Looe Road, Felixstowe, said news of his asbestos-related illness came as a shock. He had to think back to places he may have come into contact with the material.

“I went to the doctor because I thought I was suffering from smoking-related problems, but the doctor said it was definitely asbestos,” he said.

Mr Butcher said there were three insurance companies used by Estuary Caravans and contact had been made with one but the other two were not known and it was hoped former employees might still have paperwork which names the companies.