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The Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito coalition began studying Tuesday whether to set up a relief fund for former workers suffering pneumoconiosis as a result of taking part in government tunnel projects.

The ruling parties envision having general contractors contribute to the fund.

While major construction firms involved in a series of suits filed by lung-disease patients have begun to agree on settlements, the plaintiffs have called for establishment of a fund from which they would be able to receive compensation without having to sue.

The LDP and New Komeito aim to put together a bill after making arrangements concerning the fund’s total amount, the levels of compensation depending on the severity of symptoms and contributions to the fund, and present it to the Diet as a lawmaker-initiated proposal, members of the ruling coalition said.

But the tasks ahead may take some time because the construction industry may be reluctant about contributing to the fund, they said.

“The total amount of the fund would change depending on the number of patients to be covered and the amounts of compensation,” a lawmaker involved in the process said.

The ruling parties are thinking of including a provision that would have contractors manage worker records, including employment periods and medical exam results, in an integrated manner because employment contracts are often concluded separately for each construction project, the members said.

They will also consider allowing major contractors to include the money contributed as tax-deductible expenses and procure funds for the contribution through government-guaranteed loans as part of efforts to gain the acceptance of the industry, they said.

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