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IndustriALL calls on Indian government to address safety crisis

8 July, 2021In an online press conference held on 7 July, IndustriALL Global Union and its Indian affiliates highlighted increasing industrial accidents and workers’ deaths due to Covid-19, and called for the government to take urgent action to improve occupational health and safety.

In an estimated 116 industrial accidents in the chemical and mining industries across the country, 235 workers are believed to have been killed between May 2020 to June 2021. Since the resumption of industrial activity after the Covid-19 lockdown in May 2020, India has witnessed a series of industrial accidents.

These statistics are based on a compilation of mainstream media reports and accidents reported by IndustriALL affiliates. The real number of accidents and fatalities may be much higher.

A large number of workers have also died due to Covid-19, some of them contracting the infection at their workplaces. In 32 industrial establishments, 1,857 workers lost their lives due to Covid-19 in the manufacturing sector, including coal mining, steel and cement corporations.

Speakers at the press conference highlighted that the use of a large number of untrained workers, a poor safety inspection system, weak implementation of safety protocol and safety awareness, inadequate risk assessment and response, negligence and a breakdown of emergency response procedures have exacerbated the impact of the accidents.

“Industrial homicide in India continues unabated. India has become a laboratory for the deterioration of workers’ rights and we are seeing this reflected in the occupational health safety crisis. We have no tolerance for anything that puts workers’ lives at risk. With the Covid-19 pandemic, health and safety has become part of fundamental workers’ rights.

“We need governments and employers, in full partnership with workers and trade unions to develop and implement health and safety policies,”

said Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary.

“We are witnessing increasing number of industrial accidents and not learning from past experiences. Government of India should form an expert commission to analyse the industrial accidents and identify the root causes and errors committed.

“Safety measures should be improved and workers lives should be saved at any cost. The government and employers should bear their responsibility to protect the health of their workers and immediately address the safety crisis. The recently passed Occupational Health, Safety & Working Conditions Code, 2019 fall short of addressing trade unions concerns. It has limited and confined coverage and leaves out of vast section of working people, including precarious workers. They must work with unions to devise policies and strengthen the existing laws to ensure health and safety of the workers,”

said Dr. Sanjeeva Reddy, INTUC president.

Sanjay Vadhavkar, IndustriALL executive committee member and general secretary of SMEFI, said,

“We are losing large number of workers to Covid-19 and in addition frequent fatal accidents have become a serious concern for workers in the manufacturing sector. The central and state governments should immediately strengthen safety inspection system, conduct appropriate investigation, make the accident investigation reports public, hold public consultation and involve trade unions in improving  safety measures and protect workers’ lives at work.”

The press conference widely covered in the Indian media