International Workers Memorial Day 2012 

by Laurie Kazan-Allen



As in previous years, asbestos is an issue which will be highlighted in venues throughout the world on International Workers' Memorial Day (IWMD), April 28. In asbestos-producing and using countries like Albania, Brazil, Canada, China, Nigeria, Togo and the U.S. and in asbestos ban countries like Italy, Australia and the UK, events are being held to expose the risks posed by asbestos and commemorate those whose lives have been sacrificed so that asbestos profits could continue to flow.

In recent years Italian campaigners, led by the asbestos victims' group AfeVA, have mounted asbestos-awareness raising events during the period surrounding April 28. This year is no exception and a series of meetings, demonstrations, and artistic offerings1 are being organized from April 21 to May 8 in the Italian town of Casale Monferrato as well as in other towns involved in the landmark trial against asbestos defendants from the Eternit Group.


On April 28 itself there will be a silent rally beginning at 6:15 p.m. in Piazza Castello in Casale and proceeding from there to the site of the former Eternit plant where participants will place white roses, the symbol of Casale's asbestos tragedy, on the fence surrounding the derelict site. At 9 p.m., a play "Come una clessidra" by Enrico Pesce will begin at the municipal theatre. The Italian trial at whose center was the town of Casale Monferrato has become an international reference point for individuals and groups campaigning against the asbestos scourge around the world. A documentary about the incredible social movement which led to the criminal proceedings against former asbestos entrepreneurs, “DUST – The Great Asbestos Trial,” will be shown at events commemorating IWMD in the U.S. and Italy, with other screenings planned in the coming months.

Canadian asbestos victims will also mark the National Day of Mourning on April 28 at Centennial Park in Sarnia, Ontario. The father of Canadian ban asbestos activists Stacey Cattran and Leah Nielsen died of mesothelioma in 2008; the sisters are calling on the Canadian Government to set up a public inquiry about the “purposeful misinformation campaign and industry cover-ups that had led to the deaths of thousands of Canadians from Asbestos.”2 On September 29, 2012, they will hold a second Walk to Remember Victims of Asbestos in Sarnia, Ontario to raise public and media awareness of Canada's asbestos epidemic. Asbestos victims will join trade unionists and other victims of occupational crime at a ceremony on IWMD in Rochdale, England, formerly home to one of Europe's biggest asbestos factories.

Trade unions and NGOs around the world will also be making asbestos a focal point of their activities on April 28 with Australian unions highlighting the death toll caused by occupational asbestos exposures as they recommit themselves to the objective of achieving an Asbestos-Free Australia by 2030.3 In Lomé, the capital of Togo, the youth campaign of the Federation of Construction and Woodworkers of Togo will highlight the asbestos hazard on April 28 as will the young workers belonging to another Building and Woodworkers International affiliate in Uganda. The IWMD activities organized by the Nigerian Labour Congress will cover a range of occupational health and safety issues including asbestos; these activities will reinforce the political lobbying by the unionists for the enactment of occupational safety and health legislation currently being discussed by the National Assembly. Through their efforts on April 28, asbestos victims, trade unionists, and occupational health campaigners will not only ensure that steps are taken to protect human beings from the asbestos hazard but will also add momentum to the global campaign to ban asbestos.

April 25, 2012







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