Published: 00:01, 13 May 2014 |
Updated: 11:01, 13 May 2014
A landmark legal victory means dozens of immigration officers from Kent could be in line for compensation for shoulder injuries from checking passports.
Former workers in the sea ports of France have complained of suffering "Calais shoulder", caused by hours of leaning out of windows and scanning passports.
Two workers have successfully sued the Home Office after they were left unable to work when their limbs were injured from years of working in a port booth and won up to £20,000 in compensation.
Now 12 other serving and former officers from Kent – many of them from Dover – are also suing for the same condition after being left stricken by injuries to their arms and shoulders.
Lawyer Michelle Rhodes, of Simpson Millar Solicitors, is handling the claims on behalf of immigration union ISU and says the number of affected staff could run into the hundreds.
She added: "This situation has gone on for a long time and been ignored. With successive cuts in staffing levels by governments, the pressure on the workers and the workload has increased greatly.
"Officers have been forced to work in sub-standard conditions for hours on end doing repetitive tasks leading to damage to their arms and shoulders.
"This problem has then been compounded by management who have dismissed their claims forcing them to carry on causing irreparable damage.
"It is an ongoing problem that needs addressing urgently. Some may still be suffering in silence, but now after these cases they have the chance to speak out and prevent long lasting affects."
Workers affected have been immigration officers at all major sea ports in France, but due to the sheer volume of traffic most victims have spent the majority of their time working in Calais.
One of those affected is Pamela Smith, from Dover, who lost her job as an immigration officer after her shoulder was damaged from passport checking.
She was diagnosed with a severe repetitive strain injury (RSI) and a torn bicep and shoulder after years of checking IDs at Calais, which required extensive surgery to repair her badly damaged muscles.
Now the 58-year-old said she has no prospect of getting another job as she still suffers from constant pain and is suing her former bosses.
Ms Smith said: "People need to know what is going on. I was treated appallingly.
"They refused to accept that the job had caused the problem and it ended my career. They were just trying to cover themselves.
"We were so short staffed that we were stuck in the booths for hours on end leaning in and out of the window.
"It really takes its toll and has serious consequences. I am living proof. I don't want anyone else to go through what I have. If anyone is still working in the field and they are getting pain in their shoulder get it checked out now before it's too late."
Lucy Moreton, general secretary of the Immigration Services Union (ISU), who represents the injured officers, said: "The plight of officers working long hours in appalling conditions has been brought to management attention over and over again.
"The ISU hopes managers will now address these issues rather than sweep them under the carpet."
A Home Office spokesman said: "We do not routinely comment on individual cases.
"Border Force officers do a vital job protecting the border and we take the welfare of our staff extremely seriously."
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