CAW Peterborough GE Workers Fight For Medical Testing

Peterborough, Ontario

February 25, 2005

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CAW Peterborough GE Workers Fight For Medical Testing
dated February 25 2005

 Peterborough, Ontario
February 25, 2005
       The Ontario Health Clinic for Ontario Workers is running out of money as it tries to get a handle on how serious the occupation health problem is at the General Electric plant in Peterborough Ontario. After examining hundreds of GE workers and retirees, OHCOW medical team leader Dr. Noel Kerin says the situation is critical and government funding is needed.

 Dr. Noel Kerin
OHCOW Physician

       "There is no longer any doubt that they had very high exposures over prolonged periods of time to asbestos. It's not an option any more. These people are entitled to be assessed, otherwise we are denying them their own rights."

        Dr. Kerin says there are potentially 1,000 former GE workers who have lung disease caused by asbestos not to mention other diseases. For ten years the Canadian Auto Workers union and Local 524, which represents the workers at GE, has spearheaded the effort to find out why there are so many health problems among existing and former GE workers. Last year they got OHCOW involved in an intake clinic with over 600 people taking part. The result led to further clinical examinations but the WSIB, Ontario's compensation board, has refused to pay for the on-going OHCOW investigation. 
        Nick De Carlo, CAW National Rep for Health and Safety says the clinical work has to be done in order to properly prepare compensation claims for the WSIB. The problem at GE is only the tip of the iceberg. On a provincial scale the costs of occupational disease are substantial. 

Nick De Carlo
CAW Health & Safety

       "We're talking about billions of dollars in compensation claims and cost that employers will have to pay into the compensation system and that is really the issue that's behind all of this, that the Compensation Board's reluctance to really understand and expose how deep a problem it is."

       CAW national rep Jerry Dias, told Ontario NDP leader Howard Hampton at a meeting in Peterborough that over 800 people have signed up for medical examinations and more are expected. 

Jerry Dias
CAW National Rep

       "Frankly the Compensation Board is not giving OHCOW the type of funding that is necessary in order to do that. OHCOW has already spent over $120,000 which is outside their budget. So in order for OHCOW to continue they need funding. If OHCOW continues here somebody else gets left behind."

       Hampton agreed to contact both the WSIB and the Minister of Labour to help get the funding approved. He said if the response is too slow he will raise it in the legislature. 

Howard Hampton
Ontario NDP Leader

       "You're quite right. You lose some of your medical evidence when people die so you need to move on this quickly. You need to move on it yesterday. So we'll get on this right away."

       Meanwhile the CAW is continuing its efforts to raise public awareness of the problem.

CAW "Fighting Back Makes a Difference."

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