MAC: Mines and Communities

Is this the 'death knell for asbestos'?

Published by MAC on 2010-10-04
Source: International Metalworkers Federation (2010-09-15)

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) represents 176 million workers in 151 countries and territories.

It is therefore significant - and welcome - that the ITUC has come out unequivocally against the mining and use of all types of asbestos, following an official condemnation of the industry by the International Labor Organisation (ILO).

The ITUC's General Secretary, Sharan Burrows, says:

"We don't want to see ... workers jobless, we want to see them in good, union jobs that don't kill them. Asbestos is a dying industry - we need to consign it to history and move instead to decent, green jobs where you work, not die, for a living."

Editorial comment: Hopefully, the ITUC will soon address other grievous sectors of extractive industry - boosting "just transition" to safe employment in those cases too.

Arguably, Ms Burrow's strictures could be applied to coal mining and the continued promotion of lead mining and smelting.

ESPAÑOL

ILO sounds the ‘death knell for asbestos'

By Anita Gardner

International Metalworkers Federation

15 September 2010

A statement from a United Nations body confirming its desire to see the end of asbestos use worldwide is the ‘death knoll' for a substance which claims one life every five minutes around the clock, the global union confederation ITUC has said.

GLOBAL: The International Labour Organisation (ILO) warned in an official position statement on September 6 that industry lobbyists pushing asbestos around the world must not claim to have ILO support.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said the ILO statement provides welcome support for the global union campaign to see a ban on asbestos worldwide and a just transition to safer, better jobs for displaced asbestos workers.

"ILO has confirmed that it wants to see the elimination of asbestos use worldwide, full stop," she said.

"Coming on the heels of calls for a global ban on asbestos use from major scientific, medical and occupational health groups, this sounds the death knell for the deadly fibre and a fatal blow for the asbestos pushers."

The ILO statement comes at a time the asbestos industry is pressing hard for an expansion of chrysotile (white) asbestos production and sales. All forms of asbestos except for chrysotile are already prohibited worldwide.

Industry lobby group the Chrysotile Institute, which takes a lead in the global promotion of asbestos exports, routinely cites ILO documents and claims they are supportive of its case for continued asbestos use.

Concerned at the industry's repeated misuse of ILO's name, the Geneva-based body issued the position statement which highlights the UN agency's commitment to "promoting the elimination of the future use of all forms of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials."

The issue has caused renewed controversy in recent months, as the Chrysotile Institute has been trying to secure government and private funds to dramatically expand asbestos production in Quebec, Canada.

Sharan Burrow said the ILO position statement could have "life-saving consequences, in reinforcing the union case for total asbestos ban."

At the ITUC's June 2010 global congress in Vancouver, delegates agreed to press for "a total world ban on the use and commercialization of asbestos, in which regard Congress, meeting in Canada, makes a special appeal to the Canadian government to join a total world ban on asbestos."

That did not mean consigning asbestos workers to the scrap heap, however. According to Sharan Burrow, "Bringing an end to asbestos use is crucial, but only one part of the equation. That's why ITUC is pursuing a policy of just transition, replacing damaging and deadly jobs with safer alternatives.

"We don't want to see asbestos workers jobless, we want to see them in good, union jobs that don't kill them. Asbestos is a dying industry - we need to consign it to history and move instead to decent, green jobs where you work, not die, for a living."

The ILO position on safety in the use of asbestos

6 September 2010

http://www.ilo.org/safework/lang--en/docName--WCMS_144446/index.html

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