Unions in Pakistan held a press conference on 28 April, demanding better workplace safety standards and effective safety laws and enforcement, and issued this statement:
The trade unions’ movement demands that the safety of workers at workplaces – Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) – is their basic rights which the International Labor Organization in its civil declaration 2008 has accepted. It is also the responsibility of the state, employers and relevant authorities to ensure workers safety and they have failed in doing so. To make the socio-economic conditions better, it is necessary that the OSH is put among the top priorities and the federal government ratifying the ILO convention 176 do a legislation like the Sindh government did. Pakistan is one of those countries in the world where accidents at workplaces and workers losing lives and getting injuries in them are happening on a nearly daily basis and its prevention is nowhere is seen in the governments’ concerns. Unfortunately, there is no record of industrial accident s with the relevant authorities and because of this, it is intractable to determine how many workers die, injure, develop diseases at workplaces and the economic loss these problems cause.
Pakistan is the country where we have seen worst workplace disasters in textile and ship-breaking industries like Baldia factory fire and Gadani oil tanker tragedy yet there has been no remedy nor do such incidents make it to report, except a few, and the daily casualties are taken very casual. This appalling situation can trigger another industrial disaster anytime. The most recent example of it is the fire in the Lucky garments factory in Federal B Industrial Area in Karachi which could cause a massive human loss. It is in the very city that has 70 percent of the country’s industries but safety is a rare thing to be found here. At one side there are no safety arrangements in factories nor workers are trained to deal with emergency situations and on the other, the fire brigade department is in the ruins, They have no adequate resources to fight off the blazes. Though Sindh government has passed the OSH law, there has been no implementation on it.
According to an ILO report, 2.3 million people die in accidents at workplaces and of diseases caused by their work in the world and this inflict an annual loss of USD3 trillion. There are no data about Pakistan, however. The same ILO report states that two billion workers in the world are unhealthy and they suffer hand to mouth economic condition with life insecurity. Among them, 77 percent work on daily wages, contract and part-time and because of having no OSH the global economy suffer 10 to 15 percent losses in the GDP. Every year, 313 million workers get injuries during work in the world, meaning 860,000 daily. Similarly, 6400 die daily in work-related incidents.
With regard to OSH, the most dangerous sector is of construction and that is among the six top industries in the world where the workplaces casualties are alarmingly high. In Pakistan, the construction industry is booming because of the ‘development’ going around, yet there is no account of workers’ health and safety. To end the poverty and inequality in the society, giving employment and social security to the people is inevitable. Otherwise, the change and the establishment of an ideal situation is a mere dream.
Through this press conference, we demand that:
* Workers health and safety should be ensured in all industries, including textile and ship-breaking
* Like Sindh, other provinces in the country and the Center should make legislation in light of OSH and ensure implementation on it
* Monitoring committees, having workers representatives onboard, should be made at the provincial and federal level for an effective implementation
* Special legislation should be made for ship-breaking and construction sectors
* Governments should run campaigns to create awareness about health and safety and the subject should be included in the curriculum
Those who spoke at the press conference are Nasir Mansoor, deputy general secretary National Trade Union Federation, Zehra Khan, general secretary Home Based Women Workers Federation, Gul Rehman, general secretary Aluminium Packages Azad Workers Union (CBA), Riaz Abbasi, general secretary Atlas Group of Companies Workers Union (CBA), Bashir Ahmed Mehmoodani, president Ship Breaking Workers Union Gadani, Saeeda Khatoon, chairperson Ali Enterprises Factory (Baldia) Fire Affectees Association, and Mushtaq Ali Shan, information secretary Sindh Agriculture General Workers Union (CBA).
Nasir Mansoor, deputy general secretary National Trade Union Federation