Shipbreaking workers aim to build stronger unions
At a two day international conference for shipbreaking workers, IMF affiliates called for building stronger unions of shipbreaking workers, developing a global strategy to organize, establishing a strategic link between shipbuilding and shipbreaking workers and building an international network to protect workers' rights and improve living conditions.
INDIA: Welcoming the participants to IMF's international conference on shipbreaking in Mumbai, April 19-20, Sudhershan Rao, IMF Regional Representative for South Asia, argued for the development of a global strategy to organize shipbreaking workers as the industry is expanding and the number of workers involved are also increasing, particularly in South Asia. He further stated that judicial intervention in South Asian countries is required for the regulation of environmentally sustainable and safe recycling of ships and guidelines for health and safety and enforcement of labour laws.
Providing a global overview of the shipbreaking industry Kan Matsuzaki, IMF Director of Shipbuilding, Shipbreaking and Non-Manual Workers, said that it is important to build a strategic link between shipbuilding and shipbreaking workers as both these activities are interlinked and creative change in design at the stage of shipbuilding will greatly reduce the hazardous nature of shipbreaking.
Delivering the inaugural address Dr.Shanti Patel, President of IMF affiliate the Steel, Metal & Engineering Workers' Federation of India (SMEFI) said that shipbreaking is one of the most hazardous industries with strenuous working conditions. He emphasized that while organizing shipbreaking workers, the unions should go beyond the issues of wages and work and also look at the welfare of workers' family and their children's education. Mujibur Rahman Bhuyian of the Bangladesh Metalworkers' Federation (BMF), Nazim Uddin of the Bangladesh Metalworkers' League (BML), and Omar Faruq of the Banglagesh Occupational Safety, Health and Environment Foundation (OSHE) resolved to intensify their efforts to organize shipbreaking workers and work closely with established networks.
VV Rane and Manisha Pendulkar spoke about their experiences of organizing strategies adopted by Alang Sosiya Ship Recycling and General Workers Association (ASSRGWA) and Mumbai Port Trust & Dock General Employees' Union (MPTDGEU) in Mumbai and Alang shipbreaking yards.
From Alang and Mumbai Shipbreaking yards, government officials and an employers' representative reported on government initiatives to improve working conditions. A lively exchange and debate took place with government officials and employers around the real working conditions that workers face daily in the shipbreaking yards and the gross negligence of training and organisational health and safety of workers. When the representatives asked for trade union representation in Inter-Ministerial Committee and International Martime Organisation (IMO) officials assured they would take up the mater for positive consideration.
Ariel B Castro, Senior Specialist for Workers' Activities of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in India outlined the decent work initiatives of ILO and its efforts towards sustainable ship-recycling. Trade unionists called on the ILO to intensify its efforts towards creating an effective tripartite mechanism for the shipbreaking industry and social dialogue at the national and regional levels. Explaining the IMF's role in organizing shipbreaking workers, Suzanna Miller, IMF Project Officer, said that it is a core principle of IMF to organize precarious workers globally.
During the conference, two documentaries produced by MPTDGU and Pakistan Metalworkers' Federation (PMF) depicting experiences of accident victims and the deplorable working conditions and benefits of trade union initiatives were screened. The international delegates also visited Mumbai shipbreaking yard and interacted with workers. Extending their solidarity, the delegates called upon the workers to believe in their union and make it stronger.Apr 21, 2011 – G. Manicandan