Korean shipyard workers fight for job safety


Korean Metal Workers' Union expresses alarm at high level of fatalities in shipbuilding. IMF Shipbuilding Action Group to raise issue at the XVIII ILO World Congress on Safety and Health at Work.

SOUTH KOREA / SINGAPORE: The Korean Metal Workers' Union (KMWU) reports that 15 shipbuilding workers lost their lives in the last year due to industrial accidents. Five of the fatalities occurred this year, including the most recent death on May 22 due to a forklift accident at the Daewoo Shipbuilding yard.

At a time when employers in the Korean shipbuilding sector are enjoying high profits from the currently booming industry, workers producing the wealth and feeding this industrial boom are suffering and dying from industrial accidents due to the insufficient attention to the health and safety at shipbuilding yards.

The union claims the situation is due to the Korean government deregulating minimum health and safety standards and ceding responsibility for health and safety inspection on the ground when it adopted the "Shipbuilding sector Self-Regulatory Safety Management System". The problem is compounded by the increased use of subcontracted labour, making it difficult for the union to carry out proper safety training for the subcontracted workers.

At the IMF Shipbuilding Action Group meeting, which took place in Singapore in April 2008, participants expressed serious concerns over the situation with health and safety at workplaces in Korean shipbuilding industry.

The IMF Shipbuilding Action Group decided it will use the opportunity of the XVIII ILO World Congress on Safety and Health at Work taking place this year on June 29 - July 2 in Korea to try and meet the Government and the shipbuilding employers and ILO representatives in order to discuss the issue, reverse the current system and to strengthen health and safety regulation systems so as to defend effectively the right to life and health of shipyard workers in Korea.