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28 APRIL 2006

Canada: Workers' Memorial Day Activities 2006

[UTU] Transportation workers call on Canadian Prime-Minister to ban asbestos

Canada a prime target for 28 April asbestos ban campaign

Canada’s new Prime Minister has been formally requested to ban the use and trade of Canadian asbestos. He has also been asked to do it in such a way as to make a ‘Just Transition’ possible for workers employed in affected industries.

In a letter from the Canadian Division of the United Transportation Union (UTU), the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper was told that Canada occupies a key role in the international campaign for a complete ban because, although it has phased out use of asbestos use within its own borders, it is still one of the world’s top traders, exporting over 175 million kilograms of asbestos per year.

The letter signed by UTU Legislative Director Tim Secord is part of a global effort linked to 28 April, International Commemoration Day (ICD) call for a world-wide ban of asbestos as one of a three actions under the theme “Union Workplaces – Safer Workplaces”. Reports confirm that trade unions are planning to deliver similar letters to governments in other countries where asbestos is being imported or exported.

According to Secord, evidence showing the dangers of asbestos is virtually irrefutable. Instruments are already in place for any country wishing to institute a transition toward non-asbestos uses, with numerous cases illustrating prevention of cancer, handling and banning of asbestos and the promotion of alternatives, as well as measurement and addressing of social and economic impacts.

“Our letter calls on Canada to adopt an asbestos-free transition plan,” said Secord. “An integral part of the trade union campaign is to promote the engagement of all actors in decision-making concerning the production or trade of asbestos.”

“If planned properly, job losses can be effectively offset by a positive employment transition process linked to the banning of asbestos. We believe that a world ban of asbestos can be planned for and organised with positive social and health effects for everyone.”

Lead in Asbestos Ban taken by Building and Wood Workers International (BWI)

The UTU action follows an announcement by the Building and Wood Workers International (BWI) a few weeks ago that it intends to mobilize members throughout the world to engage in peaceful demonstrations and petitions at Canadian Embassies and Consulates on 28 April to convince the Canadian government to call a halt to its aggressive marketing and promotion of asbestos in developing countries.

General Secretary of the Building and Woodworkers International, Anita Normark, has appealed to all trade unions to join the effort to help convince the Canadian Government to recognize that asbestos is the world’s biggest industrial killer and that it should be banned in all countries.

Trade union centres that plan to organize asbestos related activities for 28 April are encouraged to make contact with BWI affiliated unions (formerly the International Federation of Building & Woodworkers) in their own countries. For further information, contact Fiona Murie

BWI has also produced model petitions, letters and documents in several languages which are available through the BWI.