Corrections officers at the Cape Breton correctional facility were ordered back to work yesterday morning after investigators determined it was safe following last week’s asbestos scare, but guards continued to refuse certain assignments.
Jim Gosse, president of Local 480 with the NSGEU, which represents corrections officers in the province, said the guards were advised to go back to work around 4 a.m. but when the shift changed at 7 a.m., the two guards who staff the maximum security area where asbestos is the biggest concern, refused.
“The employer re-assigned one of those individuals and the other one got sent home,” he said.
“If you get sent home, they don’t have to pay you and you do face potential discipline.”
Air quality test results will not be available until tomorrow, but in the meantime an environmental hygienist hired by the Justice Department, Gosse said, made the determination the facility was safe.
Gosse said the asbestos was first noticed by an inmate in March and tests were done on May 1.
No one notified the union, however, until last Thursday.
Further tests were ordered and the unionized corrections officers stopped showing up for work when they caught wind of the situation Thursday evening.
Sherri Aikenhead, spokeswoman for the Justice Department, said they will now follow through with an “asbestos maintenance plan.”
“When you have this type of asbestos, you have to determine through experts whether you seal things or remove it,” she said.
Asbestos is a safety hazard only if it’s disturbed, she said.
According to Health Canada’s website, asbestos fibres can be breathed into the lungs when there’s a high concentration in the air, increasing the chances of lung cancer.