Unions strengthen resolve against hazardous construction materials

17 trade unions from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Peru, under the leadership of the BWI Latin America and Caribbean, agreed to work together to protect workers’ health and safety by eradicating hazardous construction materials from workplaces. 

In an online meeting led by Raimundo Suzart, president of the Chemists' Union of ABC, Brazil, BWI affiliates in the region formed on 19 August an Ad Hoc Working Group on Construction Materials to coordinate and strengthen various initiatives on the issue.

BWI Regional Committee President and SUNTRACS Secretary General Saúl Méndez Rodríguez and BWI Regional Representative Nilton Freitas also attended the gathering. 

The Ad Hoc Working Group covers trade unions and workers in the paint, ornamental stone, cement and concrete, precast concrete, lime and plaster, chipboard, marble, drywall, ceramic and brick industries.


Old enemies of workers' health such as asbestos and silica were deliberated, as well as the health risks posed by the use of amianto, solvents, paint pigments and nano-structured materials. Carbon dioxide emissions from massive cement production was also covered. 

"There are many challenges. For starters, the traditional  health risks to workers, such as asbestos and silica, persist in many countries. We must also be attentive to the innovations presented by the market, especially those that put our jobs and health at risk. We push for the principle of precaution on the introduction of new materials whose health risks are not yet fully known, such as the case of nano-structured materials,” Suzart said.

Mendez, for his part, lauded the formation of the working group.  "I am glad that we have such a select group of trade unionists in the region. The materials sector is growing despite the risks and challenges. ‘Prices are rising,’ builders warned. However, wages and working conditions are still below the median standards of other industries. There is much to do and BWI provides an excellent opportunity for us to continue advancing better working conditions in the region,” Mendez said.