Guardian in £37,500 payout after union RSI claim

A night editor for Guardian Unlimited has won a £37,500 damages pay out after a repetitive strain injury claim.

According
to the National Union of Journalists, Andrea Osbourne had been a casual
at the paper for two and a half years and worked “almost exclusively
with a mouse, at speed, for an average nine hours a night, and up to 45
hours a week, without a break”. Osbourne is said to have developed pain
in her right elbow in May, 2002, and was diagnosed with RSI by her GP.

The
union said that requests for a workplace assessment were ignored by her
employers and that by March 2003, Osbourne’s pain stopped her from
working. But according to the Guardian, two assessments were carried out.

Nine months later Osbourne returned to work at the Guardian on the paper’s website.

She
said: “The Guardian showed absolutely no sympathy. Because I was
employed as a casual and didn’t have a permanent contract, they refused
my requests for physiotherapy and made no attempt to find a way for me
to work which would have reduced the repetitive strain in my elbow. The
paper has all but ended my career in website editing and production.”

Her solicitor Marion Voss, from NUJ lawyers Thompsons, said: “The Guardian failed in its duty of care to Andrea.

“This
is one of the worse cases Thompsons has seen of a newspaper employer
refusing to follow basic health and safety procedures. When so much is
being talked about by HR professionals and the insurance industry about
the importance of rehabilitation, that the paper refused Andrea
treatment that might have enabled her to keep working is disgraceful.”

Osbourne no longer works at The Guardian.

A
Guardian spokesman said: "We completely refute the picture painted by
Andrea Osbourne in her statement and we are very disappointed by her
comments. This payment has been made by Guardian Newspapers Ltd's
insurers with no admission of liability.

"Her own medical
expert accepted her primary condition was not caused by her work. The
company takes the welfare of all its employees, whether permanent,
freelance or casual, extremely seriously. Andrea Osbourne was a casual
sub who, far from being 'forced to leave', was in fact offered a
permanent staff job on the website.

"This would have made
access to the company's healthcare scheme and physiotherapy programme a
matter of course. Osbourne initially accepted the job, but then chose
to decline the offer as she indicated she was making a lifestyle change
and moving to Yorkshire. We are saddened that she has so misrepresented
the situation."

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