Ministry cites mould issue at Ontario university

The Ministry of Labour confirms mould as the hazard that forced a building to close and campus police to relocate their office at the University of Windsor on Friday.
The University of Windsor Campus Police office was labeled a "sick building" by the union representing the officers. (Dale Molnar/CBC News)

The Ministry of Labour confirms mould as the hazard that shuttered the campus police office at the University of Windsor on Friday.

The Canadian Auto Workers union representing campus police officers in Windsor, Ont., claims the University of Windsor has done nothing to fix mould and other problems causing health issues at the two-storey building housing campus police, citing Ministry of Labour reports dating back to 2003.

On Friday, the provincial Ministry of Labour issued a stop work order at the two-storey building, located at 320 Sunset Ave., because of a need to "protect workers from a hazard." On Monday, a 'do not enter" sign and yellow Ministry of Labour tape was stuck across the front door of the campus office.

"We found there was water infiltrating the roof, walls, windows, and basement causing a hazard to workers, including exposure to mould," said Matt Blajer, ministry spokesman on Monday. "The university has complied with the order and stopped work at the location."

The operation was relocated to the Parking Services office on the second floor of the CAW Student Centre, according to the university news service on Monday. Blajer said the university is required to have the building re-inspected before the 20 workers can return.

Union calls in ministry

Mike Dunning, representing CAW Local 195, said the building has airborne mould, asbestos and lead paint, not to mention water leaks.

"They've had documentation from April 1, 2003, five years ago, and again earlier this year. We have 12 people out of 20 that have respiratory problems that worked in the place," said Dunning.

Dunning said the university has said for 10 years that they didn't want to spend a lot of money on repairs, because the office was going to be relocated "soon". Now one officer has been instructed by her doctor not to enter the building, and four recent hires have been using inhalers since they started working there, he said.

"We've been telling them for years this is not a safe place to work. It's a sick building," said Dunning. "They know about it and they haven't done anything."

Dunning did admit that recent reports showing all the different types of mould present in the building were inconclusive because there's no study proving which types of mould are safe versus unsafe.

University rebuffs union claims

University spokesperson Holly Ward said claims that nothing has been done "simply aren't true."

"In this year alone, we have redone the bathrooms," said Ward. "We've actually replaced drywall, the venting has all been cleaned."

Ward said they are on top of all the repairs to buildings on campus and that the university was developing a plan to replace all the windows before the stop work order. Over the weekend they brought in a contractor to assess what needs to be done to make the building safe for workers, she said.

Ward said the contractor's report was expected on Tuesday, after which time they would be able to decide whether to do repairs or look for a new home for campus police. She mentioned the new innovation centre and parking garage as a possible new home to the force.