18 May 2016 – Workers at the ship breaking yard in Gadani have threatened to go on strike if they are denied their ‘due rights to health, safety and social security’.
Addressing a press conference at Karachi Press Club on Wednesday, Bashir Mehmoodani, president of the Ship Breaking Mazdoor Union, said labourers of the ship dismantling industry are being exploited by their employers as well as the government.
Mehmoodani, who has been working at the yard for over a decade, claimed there was only one ambulance for more than 15,000 workers but even that was hardly used in cases of emergencies as the contractors have employed it as a means of transportation for their families.
“The ambulance is being used as a pick-and-drop van for the contractors’ children from school and home. It is also used to bring their groceries,” the workers union president alleged, adding that in case of an emergency they had to call the Edhi rescue service.
In the last two months, two workers lost their lives while a dozen sustained injuries, including a young labourer who lost his leg, he said, adding that, “We are not given any safety gear which is mandatory in the dangerous line of work we are associated with.”
Seconding the worker’s claim, Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation said that Gadani has the second largest ship breaking yard in the world after Alang in India.
“On the 15-kilometre belt, there are more than 132 yards owned by different people. Since its establishment in 1968, it has generated revenue in billions of rupees to the government and the owners but they, in return, have done very little for the benefit of labourers who put their life at risk every day,” said the labour leader.
Mansoor claimed that 99% of workers are deprived of their right to be registered with social security institutions and the government departments responsible to keep a check on this had ‘criminally’ turned a blind eye towards it.
Other speakers at the press conference urged the government to sign the existing international conventions pertaining to ship recycling and implement them at Gadani.