21 January 2017

After multiple tragedies, NTUF prepares draft for ship-breaking code

KARACHI: After consultation with government officials, the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) has prepared a draft of a ship-breaking code, it emerged on Sunday.

Labour leaders and trade unionists had been insisting on creating a ship-breaking code, on the lines of the one in India, to prevent the growing number of accidents at the yard, claiming more than 32 lives in the last three months.

Speaking about the draft, deputy general secretary of the NTUF Nasir Mansoor said a ship-breaking code had been discussed at an earlier meeting with the Kalat division commissioner, Muhammad Hashim, in December 2016. It was discussed that a code would ensure that hiring would be based on contracts, by a person or an institution having the legal authority, and a registered company, to hire skilled workers on a ship. “The draft is ready, which may be changed and amended if needed,” said Mansoor. “We are ensuring that the basic grievances are covered so the workers are not at risk when they begin working.”

The draft includes the oft-repeated demands of the workers, most of whom come from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. These demands were also covered during the meeting in December. The draft also says that any worker employed in the yard will be given a card or a ticket specifying the category of work assigned to him. Every worker at the time of appointment will be given an appointment letter in compliance of the terms and conditions of employment as prescribed in the Industrial and Commercial Employment of the Standing Orders Ordinance.

At the same time, any yard hiring more than 10 workers will have to insure the workers in case of natural death, disability and injury according to the Workmen Compensation Act 1923.

Earlier, labour activists demanded that health facilities be ensured at the ship-breaking yard. During multiple press conferences at the Karachi Press Club, the NTUF and Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) demanded enforcement of basic safety guidelines. The demands included helmets, gloves, shoes and goggles to protect the workers’ eyes. The government did provide health gear which was shown in media reports.

Executive director of Piler Karamat Ali pointed out that the ship-breaking yard was the only industry which did not fall under any ministry or labour department. It fell under the Balochistan Development Authority, which, he added, failed to ensure safety of the workers.

Earlier, a fact-finding commission led by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) pointed out the negligence of authorities. The report added that timely intervention could have averted accidents. Based on the accounts of eyewitnesses, the report mentioned that the number of workers killed in the Nov 1 incident could be more than 80.

There are 12,000 workers currently working at the ship-breaking yard in Gadani. The sector is often neglected, according to trade unionists, as a majority of the workers are migrants, 70 per cent of whom belong to KP. Another neglected community is the Pakistanis known as Bengalis and Burmese, who form 20 per cent of the work force, and are assigned tasks that might compromise their safety, according to union president Bashir Mehmoodani, “as they belong to a vulnerable group who can’t speak up for themselves.”

Twenty-six workers were killed on Nov 1 when a decommissioned oil tanker, Aces, docked at yard 54, exploded during a gas welding job. Four persons are still ‘missing’ since the incident in which many on board the fateful ship were injured.

On Jan 8, 24-year-old Dilshaad fell from the emergency lifeboat of the ship named Snowdon, at yard 69. According to eyewitnesses, the emergency lock on the boat broke. Just a day later, Jan 9, five workers were burnt to death in a fire that erupted at an LPG container on a ship named Chaumadra, at yard 60. A similar incident had happened at the same yard on Dec 22 though workers had managed to quickly disembark the ship at that time. Trade unions reiterated their demand that all the owners be arrested and punished for their negligence.

Source: dawn. 16 January 2017

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