07 November 2017

Protest against lack of basic facilities, safety measures at Gadani shipbreaking yard in Pakistan

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

On November 1 of last year, 29 workers were killed and several others 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 fire fighters to put out the blaze.

Addressing the participants of the rally, NTUF President Rafiq Baloch said shipbreaking workers lived in a state of modern slavery as their employers and government authorities had done nothing to improve their conditions, despite the tall claims made when the tragedy hit.

Not declaring November 1 a holiday in remembrance of the fallen workers was a show of their imperialist mindset, he said. The workers were still deprived of health and safety facilities and their lives were in grave danger, he said.

Since the Aces’ fire, nine more had been killed in similar incidents in Gadani and recently a worker was wounded as a gas cylinder went off at a yard. The responsibility of these deaths lie on the shoulders of the employers -owner, management and contractor – as well as on the authorities like labour department, police, customs, environment protection agency, district administration, land authorities because they had been criminally tight-lipped, blind and deaf on the prevalent wrongdoings in Gadani, he said.

A large number of workers were present at the rally. The SBWU President Bashir Mehmoodani said the workers were being pushed into an alley of death by their employers just for the sake of financial gains. He said the workers were still deprived of appointment letters, registration with social security and pensions funds.

Mehmoodani said the oil tanker fire victims were not paid any compensation by the federal and Balochistan governments nor was the sum of Rs 500,000 announced by the Workers Welfare Board given to them. He said the government and employers didn’t fulfil their promises and did not act according to the agreement reached through a tripartite mechanism. He added that a local had donated a piece of land earlier this year for the establishment of a hospital on it; however, no progress had been made in that regard.

The rally presented following demands: A legislation should be promulgated on the shipbreaking industry by taking onboard the real representative union of workers; international conventions be ratified; health and safety measures be implemented; working and living conditions be improved; access to safe drinking water, hygienic canteens, and clean toilets ensured; workers’ transport system be improved; a 24/7 health facility be established; contract system be abolished; labour colonies be made; other basic utilities be provided; and The Hong Kong International Convention for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships rectified.

Source: daily times. 02 November 2017

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