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Workers of Gadani ship breaking industry demand justice, threaten strike

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Karachi (Press Release): The workers of Gadani ship breaking industry have been facing immense problems for long and they should be doled out justice and given their due rights, said speakers of a press conference here at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) on Monday.

They said thousands of workers of Gadani ship breaking industry since long have been demanding from the federal and provincial governments, owners of ship breaking yards and related departments to give them their due rights as per labour laws but sadly their voice is not being heard.

They said that Gadani is the third largest ship breaking center of the world, but it depicts the picture of a forced labour camp, where ship owners and their supervisors called Jammadars don’t recognize any law or constitution.

The main issue of the workers of ship breaking is poor health and safety arrangements at workplace due to which deadly incidents there are common; however, the law enforcement agencies have become a tool in the hands of ship breaking mafia.

Due to these poor and anti-human work conditions, in November 2016 a fire broke in a ship, killing 29 workers, but no action was taken against the owners and Jammadars of that ship or negligent officials of the related departments. This is why the lives of workers in this ship breaking area are still on the stake.

Ship breaking industry caters the local needs of iron and saves precious foreign exchange for the country. After the closure of Pakistan Steel Mills it provides iron to re-rolling mills at cheaper rates. As per an estimate Gadani ship breaking provides one million tons of iron and other metals every year.

In whole world, serious steps are being taken for safety of the workers of ship breaking industry.

In this regard, a historical development occurred in 2009 when Hong Kong Convention on Ship Breaking was approved which is ratified by 16 countries including India. If forty percent of the countries where ships are broken ratify the Hong Kong Convention then it would be compulsory for all countries of the world to provide safety arrangements under the Convention, as well as, labour rights as per international law and when this happened the ship breaking industry in Pakistan would face huge challenges.

The nexus of local administration, law enforcement agencies, labour-related departments, ship owners and their Jammadars has created an atmosphere of fear in Gadani ship breaking industry. Thousands of workers are compelled to work in illegal and inhuman working conditions. Workers are not being provided necessary safety equipment during work. Workplace safety arrangements are very poor and workers and their families are not provided proper living and commuting facilities and their children are deprived of proper education and healthcare.

The ship breaking workers are not being registered with social security institutions or Old Age Employees Benefits Institute (EOBI). When they demand raise in wages as proportionate to the price hike they are sacked from their job. At ship breaking yards there is no medical center for the injured workers and there is no proper ambulance facility to rush them to the nearest hospital in case of a mishap.

Recently, when the representative labour union of the workers pointed out these issues and presented a charter of demands for raising wages in proportion to price hike and providing work safety, social security facilities and developing ship breaking sector, some Jammadars having backing of powerful ship owners tried to create ethnic riots amongst the workers and resultantly one worker was injured. However, due to timely intervention of union leaders and local elders this anti-labour conspiracy was foiled.

The speakers through this press conference demanded to approve the charter of demands presented by the labour union. If the charter of demands is not approved the workers would observe a complete strike on Friday, July 1st, 2022 at all ship breaking yards.

They demanded from the federal government to immediately ratify the Hong Kong Convention for giving better facilities to the ship breaking workers and development of this industry. They demanded from the provincial government to enact the draft Ship Breaking Act presented by the workers through provincial assembly.

The workers through their charter of demands asked the ship owners to increase the basic wages of all workers of ship breaking industry by fifty percent.

• All workers of Gadani ship breaking should be registered with social security institution and EOBI.
• Workers at every ship breaking yard should be provided clean drinking water and a water filter plant should be installed there.
• At every ship breaking yard canteen facility should be opened to provide workers quality food at concessional rate.
• Health and safety facilities should be provided at every ship breaking yard and related equipment including Dangris, safety shoes, gloves, face masks, goggles, ear plugs and firefighting gadgets should be arranged at every yard.
• Sundays and government-announced holidays should be considered as holiday and payment should be made to workers for working on these days.
• All workers of Gadani ship breaking industry should be given annual leaves as per labour laws besides two yearly bonuses.
• In case of more than eight hours a day work double overtime should be given to the workers.
• To cope with emergency cases first aid arrangements should be there for ship breaking workers and a medical dispensary should be set up at every ship breaking plot.
• The ship breaking association should construct a hospital from its own funds over a plot arranged by the provincial government of Balochistan.
• This hospital should be a 50-bed facility along with a trauma center and a training center.
• All workers should be paid five percent share from profits.
• At every plot of ship breaking industry workers should be given appointment letters.
• In case of industrial mishaps each and every injured worker should be provided free of cost medical treatment till their full recovery and their leave from duty should be considered as paid leave. The heirs of workers who die in such a mishap should be given triple compensation. All workers should be given group insurance facility.
• At every plot of Gadani ship breaking area residential and sanitation facilities should be provided. Proper latrine arrangements should be ensured for workers at every plot.

If the government of Balochistan strikes a labour-related deal, all additional facilities should be given to the workers.

The people involved in fanning ethnic riots should be arrested and proper legal be taken against them.

Participants of the press conference includes Bashir Mahmoodani, President ShipBreaking Workers UnionGadani (SBWU), NasirMansoor, General Secretary National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), Rafiq Baloch, President NTUF, Gul Rahman, Leader Workers Rights Movement, Saleem Baloch, Information Secretary SBWU, Zehra Khan, General Secretary Home Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF), Sammad Members Member Managing Committee, Jamal and Naseeb Gul, members of Ship breaking union Gadani.

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