KARACHI: Heirs of the victims of Nov 1 oil tanker tragedy in Gadani will be provided Rs2 million each as compensation within two weeks while authorities and employers will ensure provision of safer workplace environment to the ship-breaking industry before resumption of operation at the yards.
This was decided in a tripartite meeting of the stakeholders – including representatives of the ship breakers, government and labour unions — that took place on December 23 at Gadani to resolve the lingering issues of workers’ compensation, social security, health and safety in the wake of the tragedy.
On Nov 1, a blast that ripped through a decommissioned oil tanker moored at plot No 54 at Gadani ship-breaking yard killed, according to official count, 26 workers while injuring 70 others. Four workers — Imran, Sherdad, Hanif and Shafiq — also went missing after the incident. However, there were conflicting reports, claiming the number of victims was far higher than the official tally.
“A seven-member committee under Hub’s assistant commissioner has been formed to dispose of the matter of compensation within 15 days,” said the Gadani Ship Breaking Workers Union president Bashir Mehmoodani, adding that the panel includes members of the employers and labour associations.
During the meeting chaired by Kalat’s Commissioner Muhammad Hashim, Mehmoodani and the National Trade Union Federation president Rafiq Baloch had represented the workers.
He said the meeting was called after the employers and authorities failed to ensure safety of the workers at their workplaces despite witnessing ‘the worst disaster in the industry’s history.’
Mehmoodani said the meeting decided that the heirs of each of the workers died during the oil tanker tragedy will be given Rs2 million in compensation. Of these, Rs1.5million will be given by the employer while the rest will be contributed by the government through its labour department.
He said case of the four missing workers had become complex because the authorities wanted proof that they were present at the site when the fire started. “First, we are trying to get an FIR registered about their being missing. This will be done with the testimonies of their co-workers,” he said.
The labour leader lamented that the authorities appeared negligent in this matter and were passing buck on one another. “If the police failed to register an FIR, the labour union will move the court seeking orders in this matter,” he added.
He hoped that since Kalat’s commissioner had assured of resolving the matter at the earliest, it would be resolved. However, if that did not happen then the labour representatives also had other options. “Families of the victims are in deep despair. They need immediate assistance,” he added.
The Labour Department’s Deputy Director Fida Ahmed Shahwani, who was present in the meeting, told The Express Tribune that employers were asked again to provide safety equipment to workers and make efforts for their wellbeing at the workplaces. “If they don’t, they will be dealt with according to the law.”
According to the decisions made during the meeting, an ambulance will be stationed at each yard for immediate rescue in case of any mishap. Workers will be given helmets, dungarees, safety shoes, gloves and other gears to ensure their safety during the work, which involves handling metal sheets and fire.
Kalat’s commissioner ordered that special cards should be issued to the workers to make sure their identity and their skill level. These cards will be linked with National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) and the employers will be bound to hire only those workers having them.
The labour department and the labour union, however, are skeptic about the functioning of this system.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2016.