KARACHI: Mine workers are dying because the government and employers have failed to introduce workplace health and safety standards, said labour leaders, addressing a press conference on Thursday.
Different labour organisations and federations held a press conference at the National Trade Union Federation Pakistan (NTUFP) office in Karachi to raise voice against lack of health and safety measures at workplaces, especially mines.
Those who spoke included NTUF Deputy General Secretary Nasir Mansoor, Atlas Group of Companies Workers Union CBA General Secretary Riaz Abbasi, Ship-breaking Workers Union CBA President Gadani Bashir Ahmed Mahmoodani, Home-based Women Workers Federation General Secretary Zahra Khan and Association of the Affectees of Baldia Fire Tragedy Chairperson Saeeda Khatoon.
The speakers said that recently a deadly blast occurred at a coal mine at Sanjdi area of Balochistan and so far eight dead bodies of miners have been recovered. Thirteen workers had been working in the mine and five rescue workers also entered it to save them. As per information received, 13 miners and two rescue workers have already died in the tragic incident.
They said, “This is not the first incident of its kind as before it in the month of May, as many as 27 miners had died due to suffocation after a blast in the mine they were working in. This year, from May up till now, more than 70 workers have died in different industrial and workplace mishaps and the responsibility of these deaths rests upon the shoulders of the government, owners, related departments and agencies and corrupt officials of Inspectorate of Mines, who issue licences to kill workers after taking heavy bribes and there is nobody to hold them accountable.”
The speakers said the violation of labour laws and health and safety standards at workplaces by owners and employers and the criminal carelessness of the government officials in this regard push innocent workers into death traps. Almost every day workplace mishaps occur in our country, resulting in deaths and maiming of innocent workers.
They said that the NTUF and other labour organisations of the country have been protesting over this dismal situation since long.
They asked for strict implementation of labour laws, especially health and safety standards, as factories, workshops and other workplaces were no longer safe for labourers. “Nobody has learnt any lesson from the martyrdom of 260 workers in Ali Enterprises Factory Fire in Baldia, and the death of 30 workers on November 1, 2016 incident at Gadani ship-breaking yard and other such incidents that take place almost every other day,” they added.
The departments and agencies tasked to check such incidents seem powerless to stop this mayhem of workers.
The speakers said that the mines in Pakistan have turned into blast mines, resulting in many workers being buried alive. As these mines are situated in far-flung areas, this information does not properly reach the public. The number of these incidents is constantly rising and no step is being taken for the health and safety of workers, while the Mines Act is also being fully violated.
In sectors of textile, garments and hosiery a big labour force work earning trillions of rupees for employers but the implementation of labour laws and health and safety standards in these sectors is still a distant dream. These sectors report the highest number of industrial mishaps. However, the owners, employers and government, instead of taking remedial measure, are waiting for an even bigger mishap, they added.
This dismal situation is also seen in cotton fields, farms and felids. The workers of agriculture and fisheries sectors have already come into the orbit of SIRA2013, but in these long five years “no rules have been formed to implement this law” and hence millions of workers are still deprived of their legal rights, they said.
Like the industrial workers, the agricultural workers are deprived of health and safety standards and proper training and as a result unsafe fumigation, improper use of pesticide and fertiliser are causing serious threats to their health and life.
In case of illness and disease, they do not get proper medical treatment and in case of their death their families do not get any compensation. If this malpractice continues in mines, textile, garments, hosiery and other sectors, even more deadly mishaps could occur in the future.
They demanded taking serious measures regarding health and safety at factories, shops, mines, other workplaces, and agriculture and fisheries sectors, besides strictly implementing the labour laws. The workers of factories, mines, shops, workshops, agriculture and fisheries should be given training about safety measures and proper and safer use of machinery and equipment.
They asked that like Sindh, health and safety law should be passed on to other provinces of the country and also be fully implemented. They asked to end private social auditing system and start and improve labour inspection. They also demanded compensation of Rs3 million for each bereaved family of the Baldia factory fire tragedy.