November 7, 2016 in Latest News
(Karachi – Press Release 6 Nov 2016 ) A judicial commission under a High Court judge should be constituted to investigate into the deadly oil tanker blast involving more than 25 deaths at Gadani ship-breaking yard; the ship owner, contractors and heads of government watchdog institutions should be arrested and tried for their negligence towards the laborers lives and environment, demanded workers during a demonstration on Sunday.
Addressing a rally carried out from Regal Chowk to Karachi Press Club, the ship-breaking workers urged the government and their employers to compensate each of their dead comrade with Rs3million as a financial support to their families and give Rs500,000 to each of the injured. They also stressed on the authorities to expedite the search operation for the workers who have been missing since the incident and implement labor laws and ensure health and safety of the workers at their workplaces.
Around 25 workers were killed and more than 70 were injured as a blast ripped through a decommissioned Japanese-made MT Aces oil tanker moored at plot no. 54 for dismantling at Gadani ship-breaking yard on November 1. A fire engulfed the entire 24,000-ton vessel soon after the first blast trapping workers inside it. The fire remained there for four days making people to lose hope that those inside would be able to come out alive. More than a 100 workers were reportedly on board the ship when the incident occurred. A number of them are still missing.
The rally was organized by National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) in collaboration with Ship-breaking Workes Union-registered (SWU). NTUF president Rafiq and SWU president Bashir Mehmoodani led the demonstration. A large number of ship-breaking workers, relatives of those missing, home-based women workers as well as heirs of the victims of Baldia factory fire and the victims themselves attended the event.
The labor leaders speaking on the occasion said that around 850 workers have lost their lives and more than 1000 have lost their limbs or have suffered serious injuries in accidents at the Gadani ship-breaking yard since 1968; it is perhaps the worst workplace in the world or especially in Pakistan where casualties in such a large number have occured during work; and the government watchdogs, such as labor department, social security institution, enviornment protection agency, EOBI, police, local administration, decommissioned ship owners and contractors are responsible for these deaths and injuries.
The owners and contractors in collusion with the watchdogs have imposed a jungle-law at the ship-breaking yard by violating the constitutional and legal rights of the laborers and overlooking the international treaties, conventions and agreements on the subject, the demonstrators said. Mentioning the examples of India and Turkey, they said that there have been made some special laws for health and safety and their implementation have been ensured by the governments due to which the casualties ratio in accidents have considerably declined.
They said that the Pakistan takes proud in calling itself a nuclear state but on the darker side its institutions are not even capable of fighting a fire to save lives; the ship-breaking industry gives billion rupees in taxes but gets nothing in return; in the oil tanker blast the government departments chose to spectaSte the sky leaning flames instead of putting them out and let the workers become coal, this happened because they were short on equipments and trainings to deal with such a situation.
There are approximately 12000 workers employed at Gadani ship-breaking yard at the moment Sbut almost all of them are deprived of their rights to social security, EOBI and other schemes because the owners and contractors in collusion of government departments have made it nearly impossible for the workers to access these benefits; the workers not given get safety gears from their employers to the dangerous work of ship-breaking and any movement by them for their rights is crushed with power; so far three labor unions have been made deregistered by the employers through bribing the concerned government departments.
The workers deplored that despite such a big disaster which is deemed as one of the worst in the industry’s history, no labor minister either from the Balochistan government or from the federal government bothered to visit the ill-fated site to listen to the laborers concerns and at least express some solidarity or sympathy with them; though the Balochistan chief minister Sanaullah Zehri came to Gadani three days later to the incident on a hardly 10-minute visit, he, however, did not met with the workers and instead hold a meeting with the yard owners and contractors who actually are the real culprits behind this carnage; and it is not only him but all the mainstream, national and other political parties have somehow expressed their apathy towards workers.
The participants of the rally thanked the Edhi Foundation head Faisal Edhi for his and volunteers untiring efforts in rescuing the workers from the burning ship, shifting the dead and injured to the hospital and arranging medical and other care for them. They also thanked the IndustriALL Global Union general secretary Comrade Valter Sanchez who did not only expressed his condolence with the workers over this incident but also wrote a letter to the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to make efforts for the safety of the workers engaged with the ship-breaking industry.
The workers criticized the Balochistan government for its incomprehensible decision to stop work at the Gadani ship-breaking yard and said that 12000 workers were directly depended on the industry while around 2 million were indirectly associated with it. They feared that with the industry being closed down instead of making reforms, the steel needs of the country will have to be met with the making imports on higher rates; ultimately the foreign reserves of the country will suffer and a large number of poeple will be rendered jobless. They told that the ship-breaking industry catered around 30 percent of the country’s steel needs through recycling. This is a cheaper and better way than others.
- the workers demand that the dead and injured should immediately be compensated with Rs3 million and Rs0.5 million respectively
- the work at Gadani ship-breaking yard should be reponed and government must make efforts in implementing and ensuring health and safety of workers at their workplaces
- the workers should be given their right to make union to act as collective bargaining agent; labor department should held a referendum
- the contract system of employment must be abolished; workers should be permanent and provided with social security, EOBI and health and safety allowances
- a fully equipped 24/7 hospital as labor colony and schools for children should be established for workers at Gadani ship-breaking yard
- the government must introduce a ship-breaking code like India has done; ILO convention regarding the work should be implemented and the Hong Kong convention should be ratified and new laws should be made in light of it
Those who spoke at the event include NTUF president Rafiq Baloch, deputy general secretary Nasir Mansoor, SMU leader Bashir Mehmoodani, Baldia factory fire affectees association senior vice president Saeeda Khatoon and others.