07 November 2017

Pakistan Shipbreaking: No lesson learnt as first anniversary of Gadani ship fire approaches

No lesson has been learnt from the 2016 oil tanker tragedy in Gadani as the labourers are forced to work in the same conditions as of the fateful day, said labour leaders here on Wednesday.

They said that on November 1 last year, 29 workers were killed and several others were wounded after a decommissioned oil tanker, Aces, caught fire during its dismantling. The fire rapidly engulfed the whole ship and intensified apparently due to the presence of flammable gases and liquids on it.  It took at least three days for firefighters to put out the blaze.

The National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) and its affiliate Ship Breaking Workers Union (SBWU) took out a rally in Gadani on Wednesday to mark the first anniversary of the deadliest disaster in the ship breaking industry and protested against the unchanged state of affairs at the yards.

Addressing the participants of the rally, NTUF President Rafiq Baloch said that a ship breaking worker lived in a state of modern slavery as their employers and government authorities did nothing to improve their conditions – despite making tall claims when the tragedy hit.

Not declaring a holiday in remembrance of the fallen workers was a show of their imperialist mindset, he said and added that not only the workers are still deprived of health and safety facilities, their lives are also in grave danger.

He said that since the Aces’ fire, nine more people have been killed in similar incidents in Gadani and very recently a worker was wounded as a gas cylinder went off at a yard. “The responsibility for these deaths lies on the shoulders of the employers, management and contractor, as well as on the authorities like labor department, police, customs,  environment protection agency, district administration, land authorities and government because they have been criminally tightlipped, blind and deaf on the prevalent wrongdoings in Gadani,” he added.

A large number of workers were present at the rally.

Speaking to them, SBWU President Bashir Mehmoodani said that the workers were being pushed into the valley of death by their employers just for the sake of financial gains. He added that the workers were still deprived of appointment letters, registrations with social security and pension funds, besides not having any safety measures implemented at their workplaces.

He said that the oil tanker fire victims were not paid any compensation by the federal and Balochistan governments, nor was the announced sum of Rs500,000 by the Workers Welfare Board was given to them. He added that the government and employers didn’t fulfil their promises and did not act according to the agreement reached through a tripartite mechanism.

He further stated that a local resident had donated a piece of land earlier this year for the establishment of a hospital on it, however, no progress could be made on it.

The rally demanded that a legislation should be done on the ship breaking industry by taking the real representative union of workers onboard, international conventions be ratified,  health and safety measures be implemented and working and living conditions be improved. Besides that, the also demanded access to safe drinking water,  hygienic canteens,  clean toilets, improvement in workers’ transport system and ratification of Hong Kong Convention for safe recycling in Pakistan.

Source: Pakistan Today. 01 November 2017

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