Union Aid Abroad-APHEDA partner organisation, the Local Initiative for OSH Network (LION) warmly welcomed APHEDA & ASU NSW/ACT Services Branch members – Maddie, Nick and Bella – to the LION office in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia.

LION is well known by APHEDA members for their work in campaigning against the use of asbestos in Indonesia. Maddie, Nick and Bella were surprised to learn from LION that asbestos is so readily available to purchase in Indonesia. Using the Indonesian Online Shopping App ‘Tokopedia,’ you can search and purchase asbes (asbestos) for approximately 60,000 IRD – the equivalent of AUD $6 per meter. There is no hazard warning. No alert to people in Indonesia of the grave risk to their health and safety when buying or selling asbestos.

“Having lived most of our lives with an asbestos ban in Australia, we were shocked to learn just how widespread the use of it is.  It is everywhere in Indonesia – in homes, in kampungs (local villages), in schools, in workplaces. Working people and their families are exposed to asbestos every day.”

Maddie, Nick and Bella at the LION office in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia.

Indonesia sits in the Ring of Fire and is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. Following any major disaster – such as the recent earthquake in West Java – disaster relief workers, health care workers, whole communities are exposed to asbestos fibres. LION is now running training for search and rescue personnel and other front-line workers.

“The one thing that has really stuck with me, is the sheer size of what they are up against,” said Maddie. They confront a strong pro-asbestos lobby with a “safe asbestos” campaign, a broken system for compensation, limitations in the ability to test asbestos in labs, limitations on the medical-expertise in detecting asbestos-related disease, low wages (the average wage of a factory worker in Bandung is between $3-3.5 million rupiah per month the equivalent of $300-350 AUD) and very little bargaining power.

Nevertheless, LION successfully campaigned for an asbestos ban in the city of Bandung and continues to advocate for worker and consumer rights to compensation for exposure to asbestos. They run local work health and safety training and workshops with union members and whole communities, performing health checks and material sampling. LION, through their coordination of Indonesian ban network, lobbies for policy change at the national level with other civil society actors.

Inspired by the tireless work of LION to eradicate asbestos from Indonesia and their efforts to support workers, Maddie, Nick and Bella will be holding a fundraiser in Sydney at the beginning of May 2023 to help purchase equipment that will help LION take air samples in workplaces. One air pump cost $3000. If you would like to get involved in Sydney fundraiser or donate, please contact Maddie – 0448 131 163.

UN Human Rights Special Rapporteurs Support Rotterdam Convention Amendment

United Nations experts issued a statement calling on all parties to the Rotterdam Convention to adopt an amendment that would list hazardous chemicals and strengthen the international treaty designed to facilitate informed decision-making by countries about trade in dangerous chemicals.

This gives a boost to the campaign to close a loophole in the Rotterdam Convention that has allowed a handful of countries to persistently block the listing of hazardous chemicals, including asbestos.

The amendment is needed for the realisation of the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment and would end years of undermining of international cooperation on hazardous chemicals by a small number of countries.

Read more about this decision in the United Nations media release here.

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