Monday, January 23, 2012

Waking up from an asbestos nightmare

read full article at The Montreal Gazette
Asbestos was an economic dream for Quebec for more than a century; the towns of Thetford and Asbestos grew around the mines rather than vice versa. Quebec companies also produced brake pads, textiles, paper and concrete pipes made with asbestos, employing thousands of workers.

But the dream began to morph into a nightmare in the 1960s when medical science revealed much higher cancer rates among mine workers in Thetford Mines than in the general population. The world learned that when asbestos dust is breathed in, the tiny fibres become lodged in lung tissues and other internal organs, where they remain. Then, decades later, came news that those fibres can cause fatal diseases, like asbestosis, mesothelioma, lung cancer and other forms of cancer.

Today, exposure to asbestos is the single biggest cause of work-related deaths in Quebec. In 2009, more than half of the deaths compensated by the Quebec Workers Compensation Board - 102 of 185 - were a result of asbestos exposure. Higher death tolls are expected in the future because it can take decades (after exposure) for fatal asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma to develop.

While rules for protection of asbestos miners are much more stringent now, workers here and abroad continue to be exposed to asbestos dust when buildings are demolished or renovated, or when work is done on roads, water pipes and other infrastructure that has been reinforced with asbestos, or when natural disasters or terrorist attacks cause buildings to collapse.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

NY: In blow to contractors, gaffe stalls union vote

read full article at Crain's New York Business Under the tentative agreements, employers would no longer be required to hire at least one-third of their workers via union referrals, and would instead be free to select any member of the union to work for them. Contractors have argued that so-called full mobility will save them money by increasing productivity, but union members contend that it will kill important protections like seniority and could lead to discrimination. Union members also say that the national union has pressed for the change because it will help it avoid the deluge of National Labor Relations Board charges filed by workers who challenge the union's role in hiring decisions. But now the future of full mobility, and indeed the contracts themselves, remain up in the air.