'Disgraceful' Guardian pays out £37k to RSI sub

The Guardian has been branded “disgraceful”

after a website journalist who developed repetitive strain injury sued it for £37,500.

Guardian Unlimited night editor Andrea Osbourne sued with the help of the NUJ and settled out of court.

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She had been a casual at the paper for two and a half years and worked, according to the union, “almost exclusively with a mouse, at speed, for an average of 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. This was flatly denied by The Guardian.

Nine months later, Osbourne returned to work at Guardian Unlimited but she no longer works for The Guardian now.

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 Thompson’s, said: “The Guardian failed in its duty of care to Andrea.

“This is one of the worst cases Thompson’s 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.”

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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