Unions intensify campaign to ban asbestos

BWI affiliates in Africa and Middle East Region decided to intensify its national campaigns against the use of asbestos in an effort to counter the aggressive marketing campaign of asbestos-producing and exporting countries. 

In an online meeting on 9 December,  BWI gave guidelines on how to strengthen affiliates’ campaign strategies and respond to realities on the ground. For instance, in Zimbabwe, where asbestos continues to be mined, trade unions’ campaign should push for a just transitory period to enable workers who are dependent on the industry to transition to better and healthier jobs.

BWI affiliates were also asked to lobby their respective governments to commit to banning asbestos from workplaces, particularly in the building and construction sector, leading to the Rotterdam Convention's Conference of the Parties (COP) 10 on 19-30 July 2021 in Geneva, Switzerland. 

BWI Africa and Middle East Regional Representative Crecentia Mofokeng said that the decision to intensify their anti-asbestos campaign is part of the global effort to completely ban asbestos use and promote knowledge and understanding of asbestos disease among workers. 

Last November, it was reported that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) was on its way in banning all asbestos-containing products in projects it finance. 

Quoting ADB Safeguards Division Director Bruce Dunn, the International Ban Asbestos Secretariat (IBAS) said that the ADB is aware of the severe health effects that an exposure to ACMs [asbestos-containing materials] can have on people exposed to this material. 

IBAS said that the ADB had first announced its intention to prohibit the use of asbestos in its projects in 2019. “The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has since 2009 explicitly prohibited ADB financing for the production of, trade in, or use of unbonded asbestos fibers. However, the purchase and use of bonded asbestos cement sheeting where asbestos content was less than 20% has been permitted. This was consistent with prevailing industry standards and safety guidance. Given increased concerns regarding the potential risks of these products, ADB is now taking steps to address this. From 2020, ADB will refrain from financing any new projects containing any presence of asbestos; this update will be reflected in the next review of ADB’s Safeguard Policy Statement,” reportedly said by an ADB representative.