Pakistán - Sacked for demanding safety at work

About 360 ship breaking workers were sacked on 16 May 2016, in retaliation for filing police cases against employers regarding injury and deaths at ship breaking yards in Pakistan.

The 15,000 or more workers in the ship breaking industry in Pakistan face dangerous and deplorable working conditions, resulting in an alarming number of injuries and deaths.

All stages of breaking ships are very dangerous, involving x-ray welding, gas cutting, handling chemical substances, removal of asbestos, shifting of iron and steel sheets and discharge of poisonous gases. However, workers undertake these tasks without any training or safety equipment. In March 2016, for example, Muhammad Asif, a 28-year old ship breaker, died at work as a workstation caught fire. Two months later 22-year old Shahid Khan died on the spot when a heavy iron plate fell over him.

In addition to performing dangerous tasks, workers do not have access to clean drinking water or restrooms. Almost all of them work without a formal contract, get meagre wages, are forced to work overtime and have no access to government sponsored social security provisions. They are recruited through contractors, locally known as “jamaadars”, with scant regard for labour laws.
Following the sackings the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) organised a two-day strike, which led to the workers being reinstated, with pay. Workers’ representatives continued to press their demands for better safety standards and improved working conditions.

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