TORONTO, May 18, 2016 /CNW/ - A steady stream of widows or family members affected by the decades-long use of aluminum powder in Ontario mines is a clear sign that an injustice continues against workers whose health was affected by the use of what was known as McIntyre Powder, says United Steelworkers' (USW) Ontario/Atlantic Director Marty Warren.
"This injustice must be corrected," said Warren, following last week's two-day intake clinic in Timmins, which saw former miners and survivors coming from as far away as British Columbia, the Yukon and Newfoundland and Labrador.
McIntyre Powder was used between 1943 and 1979 in mines and other industries where workers might be exposed to silica dust. The theory, eventually proved false, was that inhaling the powder would protect workers' lungs.
"These workers were treated like human guinea pigs," Warren said. "Everyone came with a story about how the aluminum exposure, forced into workers' lungs in closed rooms, affected breathing, overall health and life expectancy. And all of this with no compensation.
"Our aim is to prove that this practice is deserving of compensation through Ontario's Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). It is far too late for far too many workers and their families. But for those who are left, it is never too late for justice to be done."
Warren thanked the many volunteers and acknowledged the support from USW local unions across Northern Ontario.
"Working people come together when there is a struggle for fairness and justice," said Warren. "It was a heartbreaking and emotional experience with so many ill and vulnerable people coming forward. But it was also a clear motivation to honour people who put their health and lives at risk for the sake of a job. It's payback time."
The clinic saw 150 participants whose history was recorded and health was assessed, with compensation claims initiated for many.
Another clinic is planned for Oct. 3-4 in Sudbury at the Steelworkers' Hall at 66 Brady Street.
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)
For further information: Marty Warren, USW Ontario and Atlantic Director, 416-243-8792; Sylvia Boyce, USW Ontario and Atlantic Health, Safety and Environment Coordinator, 905-741-9830, firstname.lastname@example.org; Janice Martell, McIntyre Powder Project, 1-800-461-7120, email@example.com; Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, firstname.lastname@example.org