CUPE 3902, the union representing sessional lecturers and teaching assistants at U of T, is advising its members to avoid going into the Medical Sciences Building in wake of asbestos-containing dust having been found.Last week, the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine sent an email to students, informing them that a lab on the sixth floor was closed after asbestos-containing dust appeared during construction for the Lab Innovation for Toronto renovations.According to an email CUPE 3902 sent to its members, the university did not previously know that there was also asbestos in the paint on the walls, or which walls and how many walls are covered with asbestos-containing paint. It also claims to have received concerns that the air tests “may not have fully compliant with OHSA and other statutory health and safety obligations, and the Union is still investigating these concerns.”The union alleges that there were “major violations of legislation.” This includes, the union claims, hiring an “incompetent contractor to handle asbestos, failing to notify employees, and failing to work with the Joint Health and Safety Committees.“The Union will pursue these violations,” the email reads. “If you are not receiving messages from the Employer about this situation, please let us know.”In addition, CUPE 3902 disputes U of T’s claim that the dust poses no health risk. “That is not the information the Union has received from our own Health and Safety representatives from the CUPE national office. The information we have received is that the dust can easily become attached to skin, hair and clothing, and that pressure as light as a fingernail’s pressure can release the asbestos fibers from the dust,” the email continues.The union says that it will “fully support” members who choose not to go to work at the Medical Sciences builing and is urging anyone who has been in the building since November to fill out a Worker’s Exposure Incident Form.CUPE 3902 is holding an information session on March 27 at UC 244.
The Varsity has reached out to U of T for comment. This story is developing, more to follow.