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14 March 2011

Quebec's second-largest trade union reviews its stance on asbestos

The Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), Quebec’s second-largest organized labour group, has decided to reverse its long-standing position on asbestos. On 11 March, the CSN confederal council has affirmed the confederal workplace health and safety committee's recommendation that no new expansion projects in Quebec asbestos mines should be supported. The delegates also agreed at the time to begin discussions with union partners, in order to draw up a proposed schedule and transition and restructuring program for workers in this industry, from a standpoint of triggering the necessary debate on banning asbestos with both levels of governments.


The CSN's intent is that the government of Canada be required to add asbestos to the list of hazardous materials set out in the Rotterdam Convention. It will also continue to put pressure on the Quebec government to ensure reinforcement and promotion of the health and safety standards applicable to asbestos in order to maximize prevention in the construction industry and for those working at maintenance and repair jobs.


This new stance, which represents a change in the CSN's position on the safe use of chrysotile - dating back to 1997 - stems from a review of the most recent epidemiological research and the positions adopted by a number of international organizations. The CSN pointed to the World Health Organization's (WHO) ruling that no asbestos concentration threshold - below which any form of asbestos dust does not represent a cancer risk - is known.


On 7 March, CSN president Claudette Carbonneau announced she would be asking delegates to officially withdraw support to the asbestos industry.


"Asbestos is hardly used in Quebec today, but is exported to developing countries like India," Carbonneau said. "If the health and safety conditions do not prevent these fatal illnesses in Quebec, it is difficult to claim asbestos can be safely used in these developing countries."

Sources: CSN press releases, <a href="" mce_href=""></a>



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