Tag Archives: shipbreakers

Fifteen thousand workers on strike

Since there’s more to Pakistan than mullah madness. One of the striking features of Pakistan’s economic landscape are the sheer number of workers’ protests and strikes that happen here. Labor violations are flagrant, and workers demonstrations are heated. Last week, fifteen thousand workers went on strike in one of the largest protests of shipbreaking workers in Gadani, a small town on the southern tip of Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest and most destitute province. A friend went to check out their protest, and we’ve pulled together a video:

Some details on the strike:

Interestingly enough, despite crises in other national industries, ship-breaking in Gadani has actually seen a boon in business over the past two years, owing partly to a government decision to cut the import duty on arriving ships. Moreover, the worldwide crisis has even benefited yard owners, as a slumping shipping industry has been discarding defunct ships at lower-than-usual prices….

According to the union, this recovery has gone hand-in-hand with super-profits for the yard’s owners. In a recent press conference held while negotiations were still ongoing, representatives from GSBDWU highlighted, in some detail, the miniscule fraction of total revenue which accrues to workers. An additional chunk-roughly as high as a third of the amount made by the workers, collectively–is taken by the contractor, or jamadar (under Pakistani labor law, it bears repeating, this arrangement–whereby employers wash their hands of responsibility to their workers through a system of contractor-based employment-is manifestly illegal; yet you would be hard-pressed to find a company, in any industry, innocent of the practice). It scarcely needs to be reiterated that the rampant inflation of recent years has rendered the workers’ share in wages entirely inadequate. Moreover, at the aforementioned press conference it was added that workers find themselves pitilessly exploited as consumers, too-food in the few canteens made available to them sells at extortionate prices.

Arguably even more damning than these levels of exploitation, though, are the horrific conditions in which Gadani’s workers toil. The absence of safety equipment and regulations have been the central tenet of the union’s recent campaign-workers are denied goggles, harnesses, belts, etc., and there are no emergency medical facilities in the near vicinity. As a result, a staggering eighteen workers have died, on the job, in this year alone-the most recent man was only twenty-five years-old. He fell to his death while climbing an oil-coated ladder in near-darkness last week.

Read Adaner’s full article here.

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