KARACHI – Mine workers are dying because the government and employers have failed to introduce workplace health and safety standards, said labour leaders.
Different labour organisations and federations held a press conference at National Trade Union Federation Pakistan office on Thursday to raise voice against lack of health and safety measures at workplaces, especially mines.
The speakers said that recently a deadly blast occurred in a coal mine at Sanjdi area of Balochistan and so far 8 dead bodies of miners are recovered. Thirteen workers had been working in the mine and 5 rescue workers also entered it to save them.
As per information received 13 miners and 2 rescue workers have already been died in this sad 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 blast in their mine. This year from May up to now more than 70 workers have died in different industrial and workplace mishaps and the responsibility of these deaths rests on the shoulders of government, owners, related departments and agencies and corrupt officials of Inspectorate of Mines, who issue licenses 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 to death traps. Almost every day workplace mishaps occur in our country, resulting in deaths and maiming of innocent workers.
They said that the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) and other labour organisations of the country have been protesting over this dismal situation since long. They ask strict implementation of labour laws, especially health and safety standards, as factories, workshops and other workplaces are no longer safe for labours. Nobody has learnt any lesson from the martyrdom of 260 workers in Ali Enterprises Factory Fire in Baldia, and the death of 30 workers in November 1, 2016 incident at Gadani ship-breaking yard and other such incidents that take place almost every other day. 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 burying alive of so many workers. As these mines are situated in far-flung areas, this information does not properly reach to 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 to these sectors is still a distant dream. These sectors report the highest number of the industrial mishaps. However, the owners, employers and government instead of taking remedial measure are waiting for some even bigger mishap.
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’ are formed to implement this law and hence millions of workers are still deprived of their legal rights.
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 fertilizer 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 remained continue in mines, textile, garments, hosiery and other sectors, even more deadly mishaps could occur in future.
They demanded that serious steps should be taken to ensure health and safety measures in factories, shops, and mines, other workplaces, and agriculture and fisheries sectors, besides strictly implementing 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 in other provinces of the country and also fully implemented. They asked to end private social auditing system and start and improve labour inspection. They also demanded to give compensation of Rs3million to each bereaved family of Baldia factory fire tragedy.
Those spoke included Nasir Mansoor, deputy general secretary National Trade Union Federation (NTUF), Riaz Abbasi, general secretary Atlas Group of Companies Workers Union CBA, Bashir Ahmed Mahmoodani, President Ship-breaking Workers Union CBA Gadani, Zahra Khan, general secretary Home-based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF) and Saeeda Khatoon, Chairpersons Association of the Affectees of Baldia Fire Tragedy.