On 25 July 2013, a shipbreaking worker named Muhammed Selim was severely injured while working at Ziri Subedar shipbreaking yard in Chittagong, Bangladesh. A heavy iron piece hit his back when it crashed down on to the beach as no adequate safety measures had been taken. The piece broke his back upon impact.
The owner of the shipbreaking yard did not assist Selim in receiving the necessary treatment for his serious injuries. Instead, Selim was left with no other choice but to leave the shipbreaking yard. He was brought to his native home in Noakhali in the Chittagong district.
On 10 November 2014, Selim died from the injuries he suffered in the shipbreaking yard.
In early January, Selim’s wife contacted the Platform’s local coordinator in Bangladesh, Muhammed Ali Shahin, in her search for help. As a result, the Platform contacted the owner of the shipbreaking yard about the accident and the subsequent death of the young man. Ziri Subedar refused to acknowledge that Selim had worked for them. The Platform’s member organisation YPSA arranged for a meeting between Selim’s wife, accompanied by some of the victim’s fellow workers, and the yard owners at their office. Furthermore, we informed the concerned governmental authorities – but without any result. It was only once the Platform told the owner that we would take the matter to court and to the media that he agreed to deposit the compensation payment at the labour court. Selim’s wife finally received 100.000 Taka (approx. 1200 EUR) on 15 March 2015.
Selim had three small kids and his widow had been left alone with no support. Although she was grateful for the help she received, the amount received cannot replace the loss of her husband.
“Selim’s case shows how little the shipbreaking industry cares about the workers. His death could probably have been prevented if the yard owner had fulfilled his legal duty and helped Selim to cover his medical expenses. What is more, it is very difficult for the families to prove that a worker had been employed with a particular shipbreaking yard: the men are not registered so that the employer can easily deny any relationship with a killed worker,” explains Muhammed Ali Shahin, the Platform’s local coordinator. “It is only after long struggles such as the one Selim’s widow had to go through and with the help of external pressure by the media and NGO that victims can enjoy their rights.”