Nunavut Employees Union backs college staff who spoke out on asbestos
Some Nunavut Arctic College employees are worried about being disciplined for voicing their concerns that renovations were releasing asbestos in Iqaluit’s Old Res building.
Doug Workman of the Nunavut Employees Union says he’s familiar with managers putting pressure on employees not to make waves.
“Basically being told by managers if they don’t shut up, you’re not going to get your vacation leave. Of course, nothing in writing.”
Workman says even serious safety concerns, like the health risks from asbestos, boil down to money.
“They would rather not respond. And frankly, some of the issues brought out last week were that they didn’t want people to know about the danger.”
He points out that in this case, the co-chair of the Occupational Health and Safety Committee had to bring the issue to the attention of the media, and he’s still not sure the issue will be dealt with.
The Workers' Safety & Compensation Commission oversees workplaces in the North.
This year alone it issued asbestos notifications to 21 work sites in Nunavut and the N.W.T.
"We’ll come upon situations either through an inspection or by a complaint from someone that work is going on,” says Stephen Moss, WSCC's vice-president.
“It’s not rare by any means, but generally I think the contractors do a fairly decent job of managing it.”
The college would not say whether it will take disciplinary action against staff who spoke out about their concerns.
But Workman says if that does happen, the Nunavut Employees Union is prepared to take the matter to court.