Shipbreaking workers in Bangladesh have been trained in collective bargaining, social dialogue, and health and safety at IndustriALL Global Union workshops in the Bangladeshi shipbreaking city of Chittagong.
A two-day training workshop on collective bargaining and social dialogue organized with the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) on 20-21 July 2016, focused on building the collective bargaining skills among the yard level leaders of IndustriALL affiliates.
It was followed by two further days of workshops for trainers on organizational safety and health issues for shipbreaking workers, arranged with the support of the Bangladesh Occupational Safety Health and Environment Foundation (OSHE) on 22-23 July 2016. A large number of shipbreaking workers and active union members took part in the event.
The shipbreaking industry in Bangladesh is one of the most hazardous industries in the world. Eighteen workers have lost their lives and many have been injured in a series of accidents in the nine-month period from October 2015 to July 2016.
IndustriALL, along with its affiliates Bangladesh Metalworkers’ Federation and Bangladesh Metal Workers’ League, has been intervening to improve the situation for workers through a project to organize metal workers in the shipbreaking industry in South Asia.
Workshop participants also called for changes to the trade union laws in Bangladesh towards enabling shipbreaking workers to form industry level unions rather than having only yard-based unions under present law. They said it would help unions to strengthen and enable them to institutionalize the social dialogue process.
In light of the heavy death toll in the industry, the trainers’ training workshop on safety and health was designed to create awareness on safe work methods for workers, and employers’ responsibility to provide a safe working environment at shipbreaking yards. It is expected that workers who were trained will transfer their training to their co-workers at the yards.
Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL’s South Asia regional secretary, underlined the need for an active union presence to create a safe working environment and improve working conditions through collective bargaining and social dialogue.
Vidyadhar Rane, Vice-chair of IndustriALL’s shipbuilding and shipbreaking sector informed participants about international instruments such as the Basel Convention, the International Maritime Organization, ILO Guidelines, the Hong Kong Convention and European Union regulation on shipbreaking. He also shared his experience of organizing shipbreaking workers in India and spoke of a union’s role in improving health and safety issues at the yards.
IndustriALL affiliates, along with their partners BILS and the OSHE Foundation, resolved to increase their efforts to press the government of Bangladesh to implement the revised Bangladesh Ship Recycling Act 2015. In addition, participants decided to accelerate the ongoing campaign for the ratification of the Hong Kong Convention, which would help to create safe and environmentally sound workplaces for shipbreaking workers in Bangladesh.