Chattogram is widely known as the world's cheapest place to scrap ships, but it is the workers who pay the price. Ship-breakers said that they lost 50 of their fellow workers in workplace related accidents over the last three years, and the death toll is showing alarmingly increasing trend every year.
At a press conference, they blamed the absolute lack of workers' safety in their workplace as the primary cause of these accidents.
The shipbreaking workers, under the banner of Ship-breaking Workers Trade Union Forum, organized the press conference at the Chattogram Press Club on Wednesday. Shafar Ali, the forum's Joint-Convener, placed a 10-point-demand so as to ensure workplace safety and avoid workplace-related accidents.
"Nearly 50 workers died over the last three years, from 2016 to 2018. Sixteen (16) ship-breakers died and thirty (30) sustained serious injuries in eight months of this year," Ali said, while adding: this year's death toll already crossed the all of the previous records; thereby, yard owners can no longer shrug off their responsibility in this regard."
The Sitakunda area of Chattogram division hosts nearly 150 ship-breaking yards. Among these 150 ship-breaking yards, between 50 and 60 yards are in regular operation with a workforce of 25,000 ship-breakers.
In the written statement, the workers noted that not a single yard-owner faced any charge on the death from accident in the shipbreaking yard. "Although the human casualties keep on rising every year, the yard owners take no step," the workers claimed, adding that their fellow workers die either from inhaling toxic gas or get crushed under metal wreckage.
The shipbreaking workers demanded for making ships totally toxic waste-free before sending for dismantling.
Their other demands include: payment of Tk10 lakh to each of the deceased families; payment of Tk15 lakh in compensation for each of the injured; providing the workers with the safety gears; establishing a database to include the workers' data; and setting their minimum daily wage at Tk615, monthly wage being Tk16,000.
The workers urged the concerned authority to investigate into the accident s in the shipbreaking yards, taking stern action against the culprits.