Letter from the Canadian Building Trades

January 2, 2018

To: All Local and Provincial Building Trades Councils

Dear Sisters / Brothers:

Work-related cancer, including mesothelioma, makes up one of the biggest percentages of occupational deaths and related health-care costs in Canada. Evidence shows there is no safe or less potent form of asbestos nor a safe threshold. The World Health Organization (WHO) has bluntly come out and said that “all types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis”. Asbestos-related diseases affect thousands of Canadian workers in a variety of occupations. The five largest groups are those employed with specialty-trade contractors, building construction, auto repairs and maintenance, ship and boat building, remediation and waste management. These are all sectors that our members work in!

Since 1996, well over 5000 approved death claims stemmed from asbestos exposure, making it the top source of workplace death in Canada. Unfortunately, Workers’ Compensation numbers don’t fully capture the total number of fatalities in Canada because not everyone is covered by Workers’ Compensation; not every claim is successful; and, sadly some workers have died without ever having known the connection between their diagnosis and asbestos. Further, the numbers also do not capture the wives and children who have been affected. There are known cases of wives who shook out and washed their husband’s work clothes dying from mesothelioma and/or lung cancer.

Many workers, injured by occupational asbestos exposure, ultimately turn to the Workers’ Compensation system for financial assistance. The Workers’ Compensation system provides a framework for providing a number of benefits to sick and/or injured workers and procedures for claiming benefits. Tapping into this system seems like a viable option however, it can often be very difficult and frustrating to navigate for our members and their families. Without proper assistance and support, claims are often denied and members simply give up.

As part of the CBTU’s ongoing work on the asbestos file, we would like to reduce the difficulty our members have with asbestos-related Workers’ Compensation claims and increase the chances of those claims being successful. We want a more supportive system, much like what Ontario now has. For example, in Ontario, when a worker files an asbestos-related claim and, has proven through employment records that he/she has worked with/or around asbestos, the claim cannot be rebutted. In addition to paying the applicable Workers’ Compensation benefit, they also pay for health care related costs and drugs not typically covered by the government’s provincial plan.

All workers should have the same benefits the Ontario system provides. To this end, we think a good place for us to start is by connecting our labour representatives who sit on provincial Workers’ Compensation Boards. We need them to start talking to one another, sharing information and working toward common objectives that should be national in scope. We, at the CBTU, can help make this happen! We ask that you please identify any and all labour representatives in your province who sit on these boards. Please forward their name/contact information to Assunta via email (atesta@buildingtrades.ca), at your earliest convenience. Once we gather the necessary information, we will convene a conference call with these folks and a few others in the industry who can help us achieve our long-range plans relative to national resolutions on asbestos.

Fraternally yours,

Robert Blakely
Canadian Operating Officer