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Bangladesh: promoting social dialogue to ensure shipbreaking workers’ safety and rights

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1 November, 2016A round table discussion to ensure shipbreaking workers’ safety and rights jointly organized by IndustriALL and BILS in Chittagong underlined the need for collective efforts to improve working conditions and to protect workers’ rights.

IndustriALL Global Union and the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies (BILS) jointly organized a round table on “Promoting Social Dialogue For Ensuring Workers’ Safety and Rights in Ship Breaking: Role of Stakeholders” on 27th October 2016 in Chittagong, Bangladesh.

Government officials responsible for workplace safety and the implementation of labour regulations, shipbreaking workers, representatives of trade unions, the employers’ association, NGOs and the Dutch union federation FNV participated in the event.

The round table saw intense discussion on the issues of occupational safety and health scenarios in Chittagong shipbreaking yards, challenges to ensuring safe working conditions, policy initiatives and role of stakeholders in the shipbreaking industry.

Syed Ahmed, inspector general of the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE) said that the government of Bangladesh is committed to ensuring workplace safety, not only in shipbreaking but also in other vulnerable sectors.

The government of Bangladesh is working with the International Maritime Organization towards meeting the requirements of the Hong Kong International Convention on the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships. The Convention is the agreed international standard for the industry.

Ahmed said that inspections per week in shipyards have been increased, and DIFE is working to minimize accidental injury and death at the workplace. Government bodies alone are not capable of ensuring workers’ rights and safety. Employers, trade unions and NGOs need to work collectively, along with government, to ensure safe working conditions.

Apoorva Kaiwar, IndustriALL South Asia regional secretary, urged government authorities and employers to support workers’ initiatives and expressed the hope that by working together, the parties could bring changes to ensure respect for trade union rights, implementation of labour laws and workplace safety in the shipbreaking industry.

Syed Sultan Uddin Ahamed, BILS executive director, said that shipbreaking is one of the major industries in Bangladesh and the government should ensure that the industry adheres to international conventions, existing labour laws and high court directives of the country to protect workers rights and to provide safe working conditions.

Master Abul Kashem and Md. Siddique, representatives of Bangladesh Shipbreakers’ Association (BSBA) gave assurances that they are trying their best to facilitate workers in cases related to wages, accidental injury, accommodation and other related matters. They hoped that a joint effort would reduce the accidents and make the workplace safer.

The round table issued the following recommendations towards protecting workers rights and to ensure safe working conditions:

  • Issuing appointment letter identity cards to all workers,
  • Increasing and ensuring the adequate quantity and use of personal protective equipment (PPE),
  • Providing professional training to the shipbreaking workers,
  • Preserving database of workers,
  • Accumulative vigilance by stakeholders for ensuring safety,
  • Modernizing the treatment facilities at BSBA Hospital,
  • Strictly implementing labour laws, rules and high court directives,
  • Not engaging workers at the night shift,
  • Maximizing automation in ship wrecking,
  • Ensuring payment as per wage-scale,
  • Providing necessary welfare benefits,
  • Creating a workers’ pool for round the year work
  • Providing food and snacks with clean drinking water at work
  • Arranging transportation facilities for workers in case of need.
  • Accommodation facilities for workers adjacent to the yards
  • Bringing an overall change in the approach while dealing with workers.