GADANI: To observe the fourth anniversary of the Gadani shipbreaking yard inferno, in which 29 workers had lost their lives, labour leaders and workers held a rally at Gadani on Sunday to demand protection to their lives in the face of industrial mishaps and accidents.

Hundreds of workers holding red flags took part inf the rally which was organised by the Shipbreaking Workers Union, Gadani, and the National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan (NTUF), led by Rafiq Baloch.

Addressing the rally NTUF secretary general Nasir Mansoor said that despite the worst accident in the history of the Gadani shipbreaking yards, the government and relevant agencies had failed to improve working and living conditions of those working there.

He further said that Pakistan along with India and Bangladesh was among the three countries in the world where more than 70 per cent of ship dismantling was done. “But, unfortunately, there is no law covering shipbreaking workers in Pakistan due to which shipbreakers and contractors are forcing thousands of people to work in conditions worse than slavery.

“While India has boosted this industry through legislation, Pakistan has neither enacted any law nor has it ratified the Hong Kong Convention on Shipbreaking. In the given situation, the shipbreaking industry here is seeing a decline. The world is moving to green yards for betterment in shipbreaking, but workers at Gadani yard do not even have access to clean drinking water,” he said.

NTUF president Rafiq Baloch said that shipbreaking workers had not been given their constitutional and legal right to form union and have a CBA (collective bargaining agent) for 70 years now. It’s very depressing that more than 15,000 shipbreakers were deprived of of social security and pension benefits.

He further said that the families of 29 workers, who lost their lives in the inferno tragedy, were denied the death grant even after passage of four years. Despite allocating 10 acres of land in Gadani for the welfare of shipbreaking workers, no development scheme has been launched here till date.

Mohammad Bashir Mahmoodani, president of the Shipbreaking Workers Union, Gadani, told the audience that the illegal contractual system in shipbreaking had enslaved workers. Shipbreaking workers don’t have access to health, education and housing. “The workers here are not provided with safety equipment at work, nor are there any arrangements for emergency medical assistance. Billions of rupees are paid to the government in annual taxes by this industry but its workers lacked basic amenities,” he said.

Other speakers included young labour leaders Aqib Hussain, Saleem Baloch and Abdul Rehman Khan.

Published in Dawn, November 2nd, 2020

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