Upcoming law needs to address shipbreaking workers’ concerns

The Daily Star September 06, 2020

Stakeholders say at a discussion in the port city

Staff Correspondent, Chattogram A law currently being formulated on Bangladesh’s ship breaking industry needs to be worker-friendly to protect their lives and the environment, various stakeholders suggested yesterday. They were giving their opinion on a draft of the act framed by the Ministry of Industries in a quarterly review meeting organised by the Bangladesh Institute of Labour Studies, at a restaurant in Chattogram. The draft ‘Bangladesh Ship Recycling Act’ lacks clarity and needs to be more worker-friendly, said Tapan Dutta, convener of the Ship-breaking Workers Trade Union Forum. Dozens of workers are dying at the ship breaking yards every year while an existing law does not focus on their concerns and was never implemented towards that end, giving rise to apprehensions of a repetition this time around, he said. The law itself cannot protect the workers unless those tasked with implementing it bear in heart the attitude to bring about a positive change, he added. It looks like the draft has been hastily penned as it lacks many basic things, said Mohammad Shahin Chowdhury, a professor of the law faculty at the University of Chattogram. It does not contain anything with regard to the recruitment of labour, age specifications and training, he said. “That means there is scope for the yard owner to recruit child labour, which they always prefer for the associated low wages. The draft must include a provision about child labour to rid the yard of child labour,” Chowdhury said. When it comes to compliance, yard owners always claim to not have the financial capability to abide by the guidelines, said Mohammad Ali Shahin, coordinator of Young Power in Social Action, a non-profit social development organisation. “Interestingly, they do not shift to other businesses. The arrival of scrap ships does not see any drop in numbers, indicating huge profits in the sector. The draft must have provisions about the waste that ships release in the Bay of Bengal as well,” he said. Obtaining an occupational health certificate must also be made mandatory for yard owners to better protect the workers engaged in the industry, Shahin added. Dr Fosiul Alam, former vice-chancellor of Feni University; Safar Ali, vice-president of the National Worker League; AS Nazim Uddin, president of the Nationalist Sramik Dal and Rizwanur Rahman Khan, Pahari Bhattachajo, Nurul Absar KM Sahidullah, Mohammad Ali and Fazlul Kabir Mintu of the BILS were present during discussions.


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