KARACHI: The Trade Unions’ Movement, comprising various organisations working on labour rights, on Sunday demanded that safety of workers at workplaces — occupational safety and health (OSH) — should be government’s top priority in which, unfortunately, it had “failed so far”.

“The OSH is the basic right of workers which the International Labour Organisation in its civil declaration 2008 has accepted,” said Nasir Mansoor, deputy secretary general of the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) while speaking at a press conference at the federation’s office.

He said it was responsibility of the state, employers and relevant authorities to ensure workers’ safety, however, all of them had failed in doing so.

“To make the socio-economic conditions [of workers] better, it is necessary that OSH is put among the top priorities and the federal government ratifying the ILO convention 176 should make legislation like the Sindh government has already made.”

Zehra Khan, general secretary of the Home-Based Women Workers Federation, said Pakistan was the country where we witnessed worst workplace disasters in textile and ship-breaking industries like Baldia factory fire and Gadani oil tanker tragedy that had killed and wounded so many workers.

“This appalling situation can trigger another industrial disaster anytime. The most recent example of it is the fire in the Lucky Garment Factory in Federal B Industrial Area in Karachi which could have caused a massive human loss.”

Saeeda Khatoon, chairperson Ali Enterprises Factory (Baldia) Fire Affectees Association, said Karachi had 70 per cent of the country’s industries, yet safety for workers was negligible.

Activists said with regard to OSH, construction was the most dangerous sector. In Pakistan, the construction industry is booming, yet there is no account of workers’ health and safety.

They demanded workers’ health and safety should be ensured in all industries; like Sindh, other provinces and the Centre should make legislation in light of OSH and ensure its implementation.

They further said monitoring committees, having workers’ representatives on board, should be formed at provincial and federal levels; special legislation should be made for ship-breaking and construction sectors; gover­nments should run campaigns to create awareness about health and safety; and the subject should be included in the curriculum.

Published in Dawn, May 1st, 2018

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