James Hardie increases profits but pays less to Asbestos Victims Fund
22 May 2015
Media contact - Amanda Tattam
A big jump in profit results for building company James Hardie is yet further confirmation that the company is able to top up the compensation fund for victims of its asbestos products.
Specialist asbestos law firm Maurice Blackburn says the company announcement of an annual profit jump of 12%, shows the company should not be raising any alarm about the rise in the number of claims it is facing.
“It is wholly unjust and immoral for this large, profitable multi-national company not to adequately provide for its asbestos liabilities. James Hardie had an increase in the share price and dividends paid to shareholders,” said Jane McDermott, principal in asbestos law at Maurice Blackburn.
The company contributes up to 35% of its free cash flow each year to the Asbestos Injuries Compensation Fund. But because of the restructuring by the company and currency fluctuations the amount of money going into Fund is less than it provided last year even though more people with asbestos diseases have made claims related to past exposure to James Hardie asbestos products.
“It has to be remembered the profitability of the company now, has its origins decades ago when the company manufactured the asbestos products despite the increasing body of knowledge of the dangers that asbestos posed for the community.
The riches James Hardies shareholders enjoy now are built off the back of people who worked hard decades ago. Many of those are dead or living with an asbestos related disease.”
Asbestos was manufactured and distributed by James Hardie up until 1987 throughout Australia. These included building products, pipes, brake linings and installation products.
Australia has the highest rate of asbestos-related diseases in the world. Asbestos contaminated not only workers who made and used Hardie’s products, but bystanders too who are classified as ‘third wave’ sufferers. It is the ‘third wave’ of exposures that are becoming an issue with people now becoming ill often decades after the original exposure. They may have renovated homes, or lived and worked in buildings, including schools and public buildings containing asbestos.