Shipbreaking workers stage rally for rights
Rally was organized on 5th anniversary of the martyrs of November 1, 2016 fire in a Japanese oil tankers that had claimed lives of 29 innocent workers.
Workers demand Shipbreaking Law; due to lack of health and safety standards, mishaps are common at Gadani shipbreaking yards and lives of the workers are in grave danger.
A large number of shipbreaking workers Monday staged a big rally on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the martyrs of November 1, 2016 fire in a Japanese oil tankers that had claimed the lives of 29 innocent workers.
The rally was organized by National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) led by central president NTUF Muhammad Rafiq Baloch and president Gadani Shipbreaking Workers Union Bashir Mehmoodani.
A large number of workers carrying banners and red flags chanted slogans for their demands.
Addressing the rally, Bashir Mehmoodani said that five years have already passed to the tragic fire incident at Gadani, but still thousands of workers are toiling in pathetically unsafe conditions and no hope is seen regarding improvement in their lives and working conditions. He said that workers are facing immense problems due to the Covid situation. He said due to lack of health and safety standards industrial mishaps are common at Gadan shipbreaking yards and lives and limbs of the workers are in grave danger.
He said that workers have drafted a Shipbreaking Bill and presented it to the government but the government is not serious in its legislation. “Despite repeated assurance of the government, the ship owners and their agents have adopted an illegal attitude and turned the Gadani Shipbreaking yard into a no-go area. He said workers are being treated like slaves, which is a shame.”
NTUF president Rafiq Baloch in his address said that the blood of 29 martyrs of Gadani Shipbreaking yard would not be allowed to go wasted. He vowed to continue the struggle till the labor laws and constitutional rights of workers are practically implemented in this shipbreaking yard.
He said that the labor department, Balochistan Employees Social Security Institute, Employees Old Age Benefits Institutions, environment department and other related agencies are violating labour laws on the behest of employers and they have failed to stop lethal accidents at the shipbreaking yard.
NTUF Sindh president and Workers Rights Movement leader Gul Rehman said that in this 21st century the workers of Gadani and their families are deprived of basic facilities of clean water, hospital, residence, school and canteen. The workers are deprived of weekly holiday and double overtime.
Addressing the rally, Home-Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) General Secretary Zehra Khan said that despite the worst mishaps of the history of shipbreaking at Gadani the government and related departments are not taking steps to safeguard the lives of workers and improve their working conditions. She regretted that legislation for shipbreaking workers is still pending. He said like India and Bangladesh, Pakistan is amongst those countries where 70percent of global shipbreaking activities take place. However, sadly there is not a single law about shipbreaking in Pakistan. She said resultantly the owners of shipbreaking yards and their agents have forced thousands of workers to toil in inhuman slavery-like working conditions. She said Pakistan has yet to ratify the Hong Kong convention about shipbreaking. She said due to this pathetic attitude of rulers the shipbreaking industry in Pakistan is on a decline.
At the end of the rally, it was demanded that workers should be given a paid weekly holiday. Their salaries and wages should be increased by 50percent. They should be given double overtime as per law. Workplaces safety measures should be taken. Meaningful consultation should be started on the proposed Shipbreaking Bill. The Hong Kong convention on shipbreaking should be ratified and ILO guidelines for shipbreaking for south Asia should be implemented. The right of workers to make their trade unions should be accepted. Workers should be registered with the social security institutions. They should be given clean drinking water, canteen, hospital, residential colony and school. Illegal Jamaadari work system should be abolished.
They further demanded that the Shipbreaking Bill should be tabled in assembly and passed. Health and safety standards should be implemented at Gadani. Illegal contract work system should be ended and basic facilities of life should be provided to the shipbreaking workers of Gadani.
Those spoke included NTUF youth leader Aqib Hassan, HRCP vice president Qazi Khizr, Association of Baldia Factory Fire Affectees chairperson Saeeda Khatoon, Shipbreaking Workers Union leader Saleem Baloch, Gul Rehman, Amir Bux Baloch, Abdul Samad Baloch and others.