The News – Gadani’s ship-breakers decry ban on their convention

(Written by Qadeer Tanoli)

2 July 2012 - The ship-breaking workers of Gadani are peeved over the district administration’s decision to stop them from staging their convention, and at the same time, allowing an ethnic organisation to hold a Jirga in Hub town.

The Ship Breaking Mazdoor Union (SBMU), which is affiliated with the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), had announced that it was holding the first-ever convention of ship-breaking workers on Sunday in Gadani and informed the relevant district authorities about it through a written application.

According to Bashir Mahmoodani, the SBMU president, the campaign for the convention was in full swing and thousands of posters were put up and pamphlets distributed at the 72 ship-breaking yards spread over the 12km long coast.

He claimed that the ship owners, especially the chairman of their association, aided by powerful contractors, hatched a conspiracy to sabotage the workers’ event.

Mahmoodani said the ship owners and contractors handed over funds to a “paper organisation” in Hub to organise an ethnic-based Jirga on the same day on which the convention was being held in a bid to divide ship-breaking workers on an ethnic and regional basis.

However, he added, after failing to divide the workers on ethnic lines, the ship owners and contractors bribed the district administration and also used there influence in Islamabad and Quetta to have the convention banned.

Nasir Mansoor, the NTUF deputy general secretary, told The News that the Gadani SHO had been harassing union leaders on the behest of the ship owners and contractors.

“The district administration’s double standards can be gauged from the fact that it has allowed an ethnic organisation to hold its Jirga in the very sensitive town of Hub, but didn’t let the workers hold their event.” He added that people were being forced to attend the Jirga.

Mansoor said the district administration had also allowed a religious organisation to stage a public gathering in Hub.

He said the union had received information that the ship owners and contractors were planning to instigate ethnic riots at the Gadani Ship Breaking Yard by attacking the participants of the convention and then pinning the blame on the union leaders.

“They want to ban the union by using these tactics.”

He said to avoid any untoward incident, the SBMU and NTUF had decided in a meeting to postpone the convention.

“There are around 15,000 workers affiliated with the ship-breaking industry in Gadani and their representatives have been demanding basic labourers’ rights for them. The workers have been kept deprived of these rights since the establishment of the Gadani Ship Breaking Yard in 1968.”

Mansoor added that the SBMU and the NTUF have decided to challenge the decision to ban their convention in the Balochistan High Court.