Reducing Shipbreaking Hazards in India
Scrapping ships is one of the most dangerous jobs on earth, yet most workers in this industry have little or no protection from the risks involved. Toxic-laden ‘ghost ships' are usually beached at ports in Asia and Turkey, ready for scrapping.
In 2003 the International Metalworkers' Federation started a pilot project in Mumbai, India, where some 6,000 shipbreaking workers earn less than one US dollar a day.
Working with a local trade union, the Mumbai Port, Dock & General Employees Union, the project began by providing workers with clean drinking water, safety advice, and first-aid training and equipment. Project organisers also taught workers about their rights and encouraged them to form a union.
Improving worker conditions
At the same time, the International Metalworkers' Federation worked with the International Labour Organisation to establish new guidelines to help improve the safety and health of these workers. The guidelines were approved in March 2004.
In 2006, the project extended to organising the shipbreaking yards further north in Alang. Early in 2008, some 250 workers organized a strike under the banner of the Alang Sosiya Ship Recycling and General Workers Association, the trade union established as a result of the project, after learning that their employer had arbitrarily cut wage rates.
The 24-hour strike proved successful. The employer met with union officials and conceded to pay wages at the former rate, a significant step towards building a strong union and defending the rights of shipbreaking workers.
http://www.imfmetal.org/shipbreakingApr 28, 2009 – Alex Ivanou