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Karachi

September 27, 2017

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‘Govt, employers to blame for labourers’ deaths in accidents’

‘Govt, employers to blame for labourers’ deaths in accidents’

Owing to the absence of health and safety measures at workplaces, over a dozen labourers have been killed in separate industrial incidents reported in Karachi and parts of Balochistan in September alone. 

This was observed by National Trade Union Federation’s deputy secretary general, Nasir Mansoor, on Tuesday at a presser held to express concern over a series of accidents reported in the city in just one week. 

There has been an increase in casualties since the employers and the authorities have turned a blind eye towards implementation of labour laws, he said. “They are not concerned with providing safety to workers despite witnessing two of the deadliest disasters to have occurred in the country - the Baldia factory fire and the Gadani oil tanker tragedy,” Mansoor added.

He observed that eight miners were killed in three incidents reported in Quetta and Harnai in Balochistan in the first week of September. Followed by this incident, a watchman was burnt to death as a cosmetics factory located in Karachi’s PECHS area caught fire on September 20, while on the same day five more labourers were injured in a similar incident reported in Patel Para.

Two days later, three more workers died after falling into an underground chemical tank of a fish processing unit in Ibrahim Hyderi, while on the 24th of this month, a 14-storey building as well as a cardboard factory caught fire in Boat Basin and Shafiq Morr areas respectively. 

“We had been highlighting the issue of lack of safety and health measures at workplaces since a long time and more intensely after the Baldia factory fire that claimed lives of over 260 workers. But the government pays no need. Our factories have become gas chambers where workers risk their lives day in and day out to earn a livelihood,” the labour rights’ activist stated. 

The criminal negligence of the authorities and employers has many a times proved dangerous as on November 1, last year, 26 workers died while several others were wounded in an oil tanker explosion in the Gadani ship-breaking yard, said Mansoor.

He said the decommissioned tanker was being dismantled without the required equipment supposed to ensure workers’ safety.  “We hold the government, employers and authorities responsible for these killings and injuries, as it is them who have formed a criminal nexus to protect and continue with their wrongdoings while workers continue to suffer.

We believe that if adequate safety measures were taken and laws implemented, these casualties could have been avoided. Moreover, the government-run rescue service i.e. the fire department, is not competent enough to deal with such incidents,” Mansoor further observed.  

He criticised public representatives for whom labourers’ plight was the least of their concerns. They only make verbal, and that also false, pledges to better the situation. A draft of health and safety bill is pending before the provincial cabinet for approval for over a year now but has still not been tabled in the assembly. 

The NTUF demand that those killed in these incidents are immediately paid Rs3 million and those injured Rs1.5 million as compensation; government ensures implementation of labour laws and compliance of health and safety measures by owners of all workplaces.

The organisation also called for training workers on how to react when such an incident occurs, whereas private social auditing system is abolished and labour inspection are carried out. The labour organisation also called for the fire department to be provided with resources. 

NTUF Sindh President Gul Rahman, Ali Enterprises Fire Affectees Association’s chairperson, Saeeda Khatoon, Home Based Women Workers Federation general secretary, Zehra Khan, Ship-breaking Workers Union Gadani President, Bashir Ahmed Mahmodani, Sindh Agriculture General Workers Union information secretary Mushtaq Ali Shan, Abdul Aziz and others were also present at the press conference.

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