Union leaders say the government tried to cover up asbestos at the Cape Breton Correctional Centre, and it’s only because of an anonymous whistle-blower that staff ever found out.
The union representing the province’s corrections officers made yesterday public documents showing inspectors knew about the asbestos as far back as 20 years ago.
The NSGEU said management had told them the building was asbestos-free.
“This is nothing short of a coverup. There’s no two ways about it,” said the NSGEU’s Jim Grosse. “It’s negligence, perhaps criminal negligence.”
Justice Minister Cecil Clarke dismissed the old reports and said recent tests show the air quality in the facility is safe. He denied any suggestion of a coverup.
“That’s just not the case,” he said. “Clearly we did follow the protocols and we followed the actions that were necessary.”
But NSGEU officials say the government never told guards about the asbestos. They say officials have known about the asbestos since tests came back on April 25, but that the only people told were management and maintenance workers.
The union says a maintenance worker leaked news of the asbestos to them and they demanded a meeting with management on May 15. Only then were they told of the asbestos.
Speaking with reporters outside the legislature, Clarke at first disputed the union’s timeline.
“That’s not the facts as they are known to the department,” he said.
However, Clarke would not say whether management or the union called the May 15 meeting. Finally, he said he would find out and get back to reporters.