Occupational Health and Safety is a fundamental human and workers’ right, which is clearly declared in international instruments. However, about 125 million people are still exposed to asbestos at the workplace. Approximately half of the deaths related to occupational cancer are estimated to be caused by asbestos. At least 107,000 people die every year because of asbestos-related lung cancer, according to the recent statistics of the WHO.
Under the circumstances, the ITUC-AP organised its Regional Conference on Asbestos on 6 - 7 March 2018 in Jakarta, Indonesia, to be better prepared for national and global actions, in cooperation with ITUC-AP affiliates, ILO, WHO, GUFs and TUSSOs, receiving 50 participants from 30 organisations of 18 countries.
Shoya Yoshida, General Secretary of the ITUC-AP, addressed “Nothing outweighs human life. Asbestos is still being used because it is a cheap and profitable material: cheap and profitable for producers and users of asbestos. While many of us are benefited by cheap products in the use of asbestos, many of our friends are dying because of asbestos” and urged that “Let’s talk about Asbestos-Free World to our members, workers in general and the society as a whole. We all know it won’t be easy, but if we keep moving, society slowly begins to resonate with our voices. I hope and believe this Conference be a new step toward Asbestos-Free World” in the opening remarks.
The Conference endorsed the joint communique on asbestos as follows:
“Realising an Asbestos-free World”
- We, affiliates of the ITUC - Asia Pacific together with allied and partner organisations met on 6 - 7 March 2018 at the ITUC-AP Regional Conference on Asbestos in Jakarta, Indonesia, under the theme “Realising an Asbestos-free World”.
- We reaffirmed that a Healthy and Safe Workplace is a fundamental human right and workers’ right and that we as trade unions will continue to take immediate actions for workers’ Occupational Health and Safety as our top priority.
- We reaffirmed our support for the International Labour Organization (ILO) Resolution concerning asbestos (adopted by the 95th Session of the International Labour Conference, June 2006) that confirmed the ILO Convention on Safety in the Use of Asbestos (C.162) does not provide a justification for the continued use of asbestos.
- We condemned the needless death of more than 107,000 workers every year from asbestos-related diseases and are deeply concerned that millions of workers, the majority now in developing or transition economies, continue to face serious risks of deadly cancers from asbestos exposure, when alternative safer products are available.
- We condemned attempts by the asbestos industry to misrepresent the evidence on the deadly health impacts of chrysotile asbestos on exposed workers and communities, including misrepresenting positions of the World Health Organisation (WHO), the ILO and the World Trade Organisation.
- We confirmed that the elimination of the future use of asbestos is the most effective means to protect workers from asbestos exposure and to prevent future asbestos-related diseases and deaths and that asbestos industry arguments of ‘safe use’ of this deadly fibre is invalid.
- We noted with concern the asbestos diseases among workers are already occurring in this country of our meeting, Indonesia. We noted also the likelihood of increased asbestos related cancers for workers, community and consumers in the coming decades as Indonesia has not yet banned chrysotile asbestos and remains in the world’s top 3 importers of asbestos fibre.
Therefore, we decided:
- To organise international and national campaigns to promote the elimination of the use of all forms of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials in our countries and globally; and
- To resolve to campaign for the realisation of “an Asbestos-free World” for health and safety of all workers, their families and their communities.
Those specific priority actions should include:
- To call on governments across Asia to follow the advice of the WHO and the ILO on asbestos, in regard the most effective means to stop exposure and asbestos diseases is to stop using all types of asbestos, including chrysotile, as soon as possible;
- To lobby all governments which have not already done so, to ratify the ILO C.162 while moving to eliminate the use of asbestos, to immediately take steps to reduce risk of exposure to asbestos fibres among workers and the community and to develop systems for safe asbestos removal and waste disposal;
- To lobby governments to list Chrysotile (white asbestos) as a hazardous/carcinogenic chemical within the Rotterdam Convention, Annex III and any other international agreements as appropriate;
- To campaign for improved diagnosis and just-compensation for workers and other victims of asbestos related diseases;
- To promote to workers and policy makers, independent evidence on the deadly health impacts of exposure to chrysotile asbestos and all other asbestos types; and
- To publicly condemn the asbestos industry’s misinformation in any forums they make these false claims.
After the Conference, the ITUC-AP called a press conference to appeal for an Asbestos-Free World and released the Joint Communique.