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Union fights for safety after 5 killed in Indian shipyard

23 July, 2014IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, ASSRGWA, which represents workers at the world’s largest shipbreaking yard in India, has organized a mass meeting of safety inspectors following a fatal accident at the site last month.

Five workers were killed and eight others injured in a gas explosion at the Alang Shipbreaking Yard in Bhavnagar district of Gujarat. All of them were migrant workers.

ASSRGWA summoned the meeting of Alang’s safety officials, under the supervision of the Government Port Officer, Factory Inspector and Assistant Labour Commissioner, on 21 July 2014. Attended by 167 safety officers, safety supervisors and mukadams (field supervisors) at the yard, participants discussed the recent fatalaties, and how to prevent future accidents through the creation of a safe working environment.

The five workers who lost their lives on 28 June 2014 were breaking up a scrap chemical tanker ‘D.V Perin’ for ship breaking company, Paras Steel Corporation.  The accident has again highlighted employers’ apathy towards adopting foolproof protocols of disposing or dismantling the hazardous scrap such as chemical tankers. Worker safety has long been an issue for ASSRGWA at the Alang ship breaking yard which has had 15 fatalaties since January.

Following pressure from ASSRGWA, an inquiry has been set up by government authorities to investigate into the causes of the accident. The union has also insisted that the yard is kept closed until the investigation is completed.

Brother VV Rane, coordinator of IndustriALL’s shipbreaking project, was among the first ones to visit the accident site. "Gross negligence and a lack of commitment towards safety by the Paras Steel Corporation, together with indifference from regulating and enforcement authorities has lead to the industrial homicide of five workmen, causing irreparable damage to their families,” said Rane.

As well as demanding an inquiry into the incident, ASSRGWA is seeking compensation for the families of the deceased, as well as the injured workers. ASSRGWA has also appealed to the Inter Ministerial Committee and India’s National Human Rights Commission for those responsible to be brought to justice swiftly, as well as a speedy compensation claim procedure.