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April 16, 2018

Moot calls for steps to prevent Gadani ship-breaking yard from shutting down


April 16, 2018

Business and employment opportunities at the Gadani shipbreaking yard, which was once the largest in the world, have decreased considerably over the years due to the use of outdated methods of dismantling ships and precarious health and safety conditions. It is necessary that the government and the employers take necessary steps for preventing the industry from shutting down.

Nasir Mansoor, deputy general secretary of the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), expressed these views at a seminar, titled ‘Issues and Way Forward for Ship-breaking Industry and ILO Guidelines and Hong Kong Convention’, held at the PMA House on Sunday.

He said the industry was also meeting 30 per cent of the country’s iron needs, and if not taken seriously the situation could cause a hefty loss to the national exchequer.

“There were once 35,000 people employed [in Gadani]. Today, they have reduced to around 10,000,” he said. “Due to the worsening situation, the downstream industries that depend on it, particularly over 200 rerolling mills across the country, and over two million workers are uncertain about their future.”

He said similar industries in the world had considerably changed after the implementation of labour rights and internationally accepted labour standards. Alang in India, he added, was arguably leading in the world – employing 75,000 workers -- because the Indian government was taking steps to better the conditions there, after receiving a directive from the country’s Supreme Court too to legislate and enact a ship-breaking code.

The Gadani ship-breaking industry has witnessed a number of disasters, the worst of which occurred on November 1, 2016, when a decommissioned oil tanker caught fire during its dismantling. As a result, 29 workers were killed and several wounded, according to the NTUF.

Bashir Mehmoodani, the president of Ship Breaking Workers Union Gadani, said accidents were happening even today because neither the government nor the employers had learned any lesson from the past. “They are interested in making money only,” he said, while referring to the revenues generated from the industry and its black market that “greases the palm of corrupt government ministers and officers”.

“It is necessary that the employers, government, labour and other authorities should consider the issue seriously to save the industry from nearly shutting down,” he said, adding that it was inevitable that they give the workers their due right of representation and resolve the issues of the CBA workers union.

“Unless there are real representatives of workers in power, the situation would not get better.” NTUF president Rafiq Baloch, Habib Bank Workers Front leader Habibuddin Junaidi, Rerolling Mills General Workers Union general secretary Shah Jee Rehman and others also spoke at the event.

They demanded that legislation for the ship-breaking industry should be done in light of the ILO guidelines, Hone Kong International Convention for the safe and environmentally sound recycling of ships should be ratified, and a tripartite consultative mechanism to make the situation better be initiated in letter and spirit.

They also demanded that the workers union be recognised legally and constitutionally, access to ambulance, dispensary and safe drinking water be given to workers in each yard, and a hospital, a labour colony and a proper communication network be built in Gadani.

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