Where ships and workers go to die
Broadcast on the website of the Institute of Global Labour and Human Rights in January 2009
Abstract: Just a decade or two ago, decommissioned freighter and tanker ships were broken up in their home countries, in dry docks with strict health and safety, environmental and worker rights standards. Today in Bangladesh, these giant ships are driven up onto the beaches of the Bay of Bengal, where some 40,000 shipbreakers—some just teenaged children—toil 12 hour shifts, seven days a week, paid just 30 to 45 cents an hour, to do one of the most dangerous jobs in the world in which it is common for workers to be maimed or killed. The shipbreakers live in crowded, primitive hovels, sleeping on the concrete floor. They are day laborers, with no contract and no rights. Any workers trying to organize a union to protect their legal rights are immediately fired and blacklisted. And the Bay of Bengal is also now an environmental disaster.