Briefs (May 7, 2001)

Toronto — Miners in Northern Ontario are demanding the government take immediate action to address the increasing rate of occupational disease in the industry. According to the United Steelworkers, over the last 10 years there has been a sharp increase of silicosis — lung disease caused by inhaling dust containing silicon dioxide — among miners in Ontario. There have been more than 100 reported cases of silicosis claims allowed by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board so far this year. The union is asking the Ministry of Labour to restore the mining master file, which tracks work and exposure to chemicals by miners and to provide chest X-rays and respiratory testing to miners.

Washington, D.C. — The U.S. government plans to freeze spending on labour law enforcement and cut a number of employment training programs. The freezes and cuts are part of a 4.7-per-cent reduction in the Labour Department’s overall budget. Programs affected include youth employment training, retraining workers who lose their jobs and training assistance to low-income adults. Despite the cuts, the budget will double for the labour department’s new disability program.

Mexico City — According to an economic report published by Canadian, American and Mexican think tanks, the free-trade agreement is failing to protect workers. The report was commissioned by the Centre for Policy Alternatives in Canada, the Economic Policy Institute in the U.S. and the Mexican Institute of Labour Studies and Investigation. Released in conjunction with the third Summit of the Americas last month, it cites stagnant and falling wages across the board, and in Canada and the U.S., a “threat effect” in collective bargaining where companies threaten to relocate work to Mexico. According to the report, 276,000 jobs have been lost in Canada under free-trade. The report goes on to state that while there has been an increase in the Mexican employment rate it is insufficient to meet the demand for new jobs.

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