16 workers killed and 47 injured in a horrific blast in Gadani shipbreaking yard in Pakistan this morning.
According to initial information received from IndustriALL Global Union affiliate the National Trade Union Federation of Pakistan (NTUF), the blast in shipyard no. 56 killed 16 workers and injured at least 47. It is feared that the death toll may increase as many workers are grievously injured and around 170 workers are still stranded in the ship.
Reports suggest that the explosion occurred while workers were cutting the oil tanker. No fire brigade was present to control the fire at the shipyard, nor was there any fire fighting equipment. Shipbreaking workers’ worst nightmare came true with this deadly accident. The NTUF has announced three days mourning and a strike at all yards from today after an emergency meeting at Gadani yard.
Just this Sunday, 30 October 2016, Gadani shipbreaking workers held a demonstration in front of the Karachi Press Club, demanding the government of Pakistan enact a new law in line with the Hong Kong International Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships. The NTUF organized the protest demonstration to highlight poor working conditions, particularly the lack of health and safety measures at Gadani shipbreaking yards.
More than 20,000 workers who are directly or indirectly employed in the ship breaking industry in the Gadani region are deprived of their basic rights and continue to work in precarious and hazardous working conditions. The majority of workers at Gadani yards have no social security cover, and are not registered with the relevant government authorities. Despite working for long periods of time, Gadani shipbreaking workers are deprived of their right to form unions and to act as collective bargaining agents.
In the absence of the implementation of labour laws and poor health and safety measures, as today’s blast demonstrates, accidents at the workplace have become routine, leading to death and causing grievous injuries to workers. Even though accidents are frequent, there is no hospital at the Gadani shipbreaking yard to provide emergency medical treatment. Workers have raised the issue of lack of ambulance facilities on numerous occasions.
Kan Matsuzaki, IndustriALL director for shipbuilding and shipbreaking states,
“We deplore this terrible industrial homicide, and mourn the victims together with their families and friends.
“We will strengthen our campaign and action to combat the unacceptable health and safety conditions in Gadani. The government must immediately take practical measures to protect human lives at the yards, as well as fundamental workers’ rights.”
The deadly blast in Gadani further reveals how shipbreaking workers’ lives are at risk every day. IndustriALL supports the workers’ demand that the Pakistani government must immediately ratify the Hong Kong Convention and take steps to enact legislation in line with the Convention.