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Rights activists demand lifting of Section 144 from Gadani shipyard

By Zoya Anwer
October 18, 2018

In light of the recent fire incident at Gadani ship-breaking yard that left seven workers injured, labour rights activists and unions held a rally on Tuesday demanding that Section 144 be lifted from the shipyard to provide immediate support to labourers.

At a press conference held at the Karachi Press Club, Nasir Mansoor of the National Trade Union Federation said that the ship-breaking industry was on its way to a slow demise as the number of labourers is decreasing owing to dismal work conditions.

He added that since November 2016, more than 100 workers have been injured in fire-related incidents and around 30 of them have lost their lives. Speaking about the October 14 incident, Mansoor said that a fire had erupted in an oil tanker anchored at plot number 9-10, which resulted in injuries to seven workers; three of them are in critical condition.

The fire erupted due to a lack of safety measures and a similar incident was witnessed in plot number 6-7 as well, he said.

Representing Ship-breaking Workers’ Union Gadani, Bashir Ahmed said that the implementation of Section 144 and halting work in the entire shipyard, instead of just the affected plots, meant doom for all workers. “Hundreds of labourers are now trying to find work because the yard has been shut,” he said.

Ahmed added that following the last grave incident two years ago, around 3,000 to 4,000 workers didn’t have work because the ship-breaking yard was shut.

He requested the government to look into this and give the required rights under the International Labour Organization to labourers, especially death grants to the families of those who have lost lives and health provisions to those who are injured.

Zehra Khan of Home-Based Workers Association said that the contract system has spread in almost all sectors which allows further exploitation of labour. The system takes away the right to EOBI, minimum wage and other provisions from the workers, and the state should look into all industries using it to get away from labour laws, she said.

Pakistan Labour Bureau’s Habibullah Junaidi said that it seems that the labourers in some sectors are still living in times some 300 years back because of their preposterous and exploitative labour laws.

Karamat Ali of PILER stressed that many times the anchored ship isn’t checked by the authorities for any possibility of explosives and workers are pushed to work without any protective gear, which results in untoward incidents.

The unionists said that a petition has been filed to release the payment for all those who have suffered because the right to life is the constitutional right of every citizen in the country. Workers from Gadani shipyard also arrived at KPC and protested against the inhumane working conditions in the ship-breaking industry.