Snapshots from unions in India (CLU and MAMU) joining the global campaign for workers’ safety amid the pandemic.
Snapshots from unions in India (CLU and MAMU) joining the global campaign for workers’ safety amid the pandemic.
Members of the Indian National Cement Workers Federation Commemorate IWMD in Maharashtra and Gujarat States #BWIIWMD2020
28 April, International Workers Memorial Day
Why do workers meet premature death?
Workers don’t work to die, provide them adequate protection.
Today is 28 April, IWMD. We remember those who died during the year in accidents at work or of occupational diseases and dedicate ourselves to fight for the living.
As per ILO estimates 2.3 million workers die each year in which 2.1 million die of different occupational disease and 0.2 in accidents at work. It amounts to 6000 deaths each day. Another 340 million injure themselves in accidents and 160 million get sick due to work.
We do not have official data of occupational diseases either for the country or for the state of Gujarat, though diagnosis of ODs might be done here and there. During the last year 13 workers died of silicosis from among those community with whom we work. That includes 7 from ceramic units in Than, 3 from sculptures in Dhrangadhra, 1 from tile factory in Morbi and 2 from Rajkot. Average age was 43. Among 13, one was female and rest male workers.
All these met with premature deaths because their health was not the priority for their owners or the Government. This does not seem to be priority of the Government of Gujarat either. In 2017 National Human Rights Commission recommended the State to formulate comprehensive policy for the rehabilitation and welfare of the workers suffering from Silicosis but State Government has not taken any action yet. Rajasthan and Haryana have set good example by formulating such policy for their states.
7 workers died in a fire in Chiripal Textile in Ahmedabad on 8 February, 2020. Before that 6 workers died in accident in P.I.Industires in Sarod on 6 January, 2020. Another 6 died in explosion in Aims Oxygen, Gavasad in Vadodara on 11 January, 2020. 4 workers died in Chemshell explosion in Makarpura industrial area in Vadodara on 21 October 2019. Production manager died in November ,19 in gas leak in Vakson life in Ankaleshwar. 19 worker died in 3 incidents took place during January-February of this year.
Most accidents that take place in factories are preventable. Factory Act provides elaborate provisions to prevent accidents. If enforced, that will help reduce accidents. But looking at the above data it can be seen that the fatal accidents are on increase. Impact of failure of employers and Governments in providing safer and healthier workplace fall not only on the families of the individual workers but also deeply on the economy of the country. Productivity goes down. At present many sanctioned posts of inspectors in labour department are lying vacant. It is the responsibility of the State to fill up the vacant positions. On the other hand, under “ease of doing business” policy for inspection has been changed. In violation of the Contract Labour (Abolition and Regulation) Act workers are appointed through contractors in manufacturing and there is no control over their working hours. State has stopped filing complaints for violation of provisions for working hours in the Act since last so many years. By amending the provisions limit of overtime hours has been raised. Enforcement of provision to file return in Form 24 under Sec.107 of the Gujarat Factory Rules is so weak that we do not get correct data. Consistent decrease in Notifiable accidents seen in official data is nothing but under reporting. As the industry is interested in posing their better image unfortunately, State, too is interested. Well, we can understand this interest but it is no good to use half truths to build image.
Record of the State in fatal accidents is no good. To keep the data on lower side they play tricks like legal and non-legal still according to the data published by National Crime Records Bureau for the fatal accidents in 2016, Gujarat stood second after Delhi. From 2013 to 2018 989 workers died in fatal accidents in Gujarat. In 2018 218 workers died till November and for the same period in 2019, 168 workers died.. In 2018 there were 32192 working and registered units in the State which employed 1.725 million workers. 263 workers died in that year as per official data. This amounts to rate of 15.23 per 100,000 workers employed. In 2017 this rate for European Union was 1.65 (https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics‐explained/index.php/Accidents_at_work_statistics). Comparing this rate with that of Gujarat indicate, we have a long way to go in providing safer workplace to our workers.
It is observed that the complaints filed by the State for the violation of provisions of Factory Act are under Sec. 92 only but no complaints are filed under Sec.96-A. After Bhopal gas tragedy the Act was amended to make more stringent provisions for violations but State is not taking any advantage of this amendment and that is how industry is not only shown leniency but they are encouraged to violate the provisions.
In factories workers come in contact with the materials they handle which adversely affect their health and thousands suffer from cancer, lung diseases, skin diseases, noise induced deafness and so on. But we do not have reliable data on these. With great pain we have to take note that the Certifying Surgeons and Factory Medical Officers have utterly failed. The private practitioners who diagnose these diseases do not notify them either because many of them do not know the provisions and State is not interested.
As per the report of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) it is the policy of the State to not to take any legal action against the violator for fatal accident if the employer pays ex-gratia compensation (over and above the legal compensation) to the victim and if they don’t pay ex-gratia amount, take action up to closer. It is complete illegal not to file complaint though the unit has violated the law. It is unacceptable to allow manufacturing by keeping worker’s life at bay. Life of any worker is invaluable but State is not interested in saving their life. Please the victim family by paying little more to keep them shut. Workers don’t come to factory to die. This policy is cruel joke of human dignity and human rights. We condemn this policy and in wider interests of the workers demand-
Plus: Read the news story 13 workers died of silicosis in Gujarat in 16 months
Life before profit – young workers’ voices from India
ANROEV has supplied a list of some of their affiliates’ initiatives in various countries campaigning for the recognition of COVID 19 as an occupational and compensable disease.
Building Wood Workers’ International (BWI) affiliates in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh have planned a wide range of activities to mark International Workers’ Memorial Day. Those activities will include workshops, roadshows, meetings, candlelight vigils, training, press events, seminars, silicosis screening a mega health camp and a human chain.
BMS In Gujarat one-day workshop on occupational health and safety will be held in association with the employer’s association and the Government along with a Road show on construction workers safety and health issues on 28th April.
CFBWU Workers’ awareness meeting on occupational health and safety followed by a candlelight vigil.
INCWF Commemoration at the Lafarge Holcim plant in Chhattisgarh and 28 April commemoration at selected other cement plants across the country.
CLU Health and Safety Training Workshop for District-level and second line leadership in Patna, Bihar State.
AHBWU Mega Health Camp (focusing on stone quarry and construction workers) including screening for silicosis.
TKTMS Workers rally and press meeting in Dharampuri District, Tamil Nadu. Over 1,000 workers are expected to participate. Victims and affected families shall also share experiences at the press meeting.
MAMU Meeting with Workers on health and safety awareness in East Delhi.
ACEEU Awareness seminar on safety practices and possible hazards at worksites for construction workers in cooperation with selected employers.
PFBWW Occupational health and safety awareness for union members and local union leadership of the Tarbela T4 project.
NAC Unions are planning specific site level actions with details to follow.
BBWWF Workers’ rally and occupational health and safety awareness in Dhaka (including Metro workers) and the Khulna Districts.
BSBWWF Human chain in front of Dhaka Press Club followed by a press meeting on occupational health and safety.
Building and Wood Workers’ International (BWI) affiliated unions have reported multiple activities across India to mark 28 April.
CFBWU Rolling rights awareness campaign on occupational health and safety (covering all labour contact points) followed by a press Conference in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh.
Bharatiya Mazdoor Singh (BMS), Gujarat has reported there will be a multi-stakeholder dialogue on health and safety Issues including discussions on the implementation of OHS provisions under the State Construction Workers Welfare Boards with key representatives from Metro Rail Contractors, Contractors/Builders’ Association, Safety Officers under the Construction Workers’ Welfare Board in Ahmedabad on 27th April (as 28th April is Saturday and a holiday for Government officials hence the union has advanced the activity on 27th).
Indian National Cement Workers’ Federation (INCWF) Health and Safety Workshops at two LafargeHolcim Cement plants (specifically where fatal accidents took place) and the union shall also utilise this opportunity to assess the status of OHS safeguards in the plants followed by meeting(s) with the management.
Nikhila Orissa Bidyut Sramik Mahasanga (NOBSM) OHS Awareness seminar for contract workers (Electricity sector) and distribution of PPE in Bhowanipatna, Kalahandi District.
ONMS, a BWI affiliate from Orissa, has reported it will hold a tripartite meeting with government and business representatives to discuss prevention of accidents.
TKTMS Mass workers mobilisation-cum-rally in Krishnagiri District
To mark Workers Memorial Day, IUF has produced with Pesticides Action Network (PAN) and the Swiss-based NGO, Berne Declaration, a report on the use of paraquat in India. more
Report from Jagdish Patel, Gujarat.
Today we observed 28 April – International Workers Memorial Day at Khambhat to mourn 25 silicosis victims. This is a new record of numbers of deaths in recent past. Among these 25, there are two pairs of Mother & son.One of the victims Ajay Fakir Machhi was on y 16 when he died last October. His mother Ramilaben (40) could not held back her tears rolling down while garlanding his photo. 10 Year old Sanjay lost his mother last year.He travelled all the way from Navapaura near Anklav to pay homage to her mother He had lost his father Mukeshbhai in 2011. Ajit Parmar lost his brother and Mother at two month interval during 2014. Among 25, 6 were women and 19 male. 14 (60%) were minority.
Some 200 workers, widows and concerned citizens attended the program held at Gawara Tower,Khambhat
In India, activities are being run in different States
Tamil Nadu: TKTMS will organise a rally followed by a public meeting of construction workers at Vellore District
Gujarat: BMS will run a workshop on health and safety in partnership with the State Construction Welfare Board (Government of Gujarat), Contractors Association, Builders Association (Gujarat chapter) and Real Estate Developers Association at Ahmedabad. The union will also organise a candle light vigil with union members in the evening.
Rajasthan: AHBWU organises a mass meeting of contract workers on OHS at Kota. RPKNMS will run health and safety awareness activities focusing on silicosis, and distribute materials among mine workers engaged in the natural stone sector in Jodhpur.
Delhi: DNMS will hire a vehicle as part of their ‘Rolling rights campaign’, raising awareness on health and safety, distributing materials concerning construction welfare board and union enrolment at 3 construction sites.
Kerala: KKNTC will organise a candle light march with construction workers followed by a Public meeting at Ernakulam