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Union leader calls for an end to the deaths in the shipbreaking yards of Bangladesh and India

13 October 2010

Derek Simpson, joint leader of Unite, today (13 October) demanded that there should be no more deaths in the shipyards of Bangladesh and India following the recent deaths of three workers in a shipbreaking yard in Bangladesh.

Workers Uniting, the global union which includes Unite, vowed to do everything in its power to end the horrendous working conditions in shipbreaking yards.The global union will launch an international campaign to raise awareness of the plight of workers breaking the world’s ships, and to force a total overhaul of the yards. 95 per cent of old ships are broken up and recycled on the beaches of Bangladesh, India, China, Pakistan and Turkey in the most appalling conditions.  

On Saturday evening, 9 October, three more ship breakers were crushed to death and many injured in the Sima Steel yard, Chittagong in Bangladesh. 20 year old Mr. Kalam, 30 year old Mr. Faruk and 35 year old Mr. Bashar were killed while trying to pull down a piece of a ship, which fell and crushed them. 12 workers were involved in this operation and it appears that several were seriously injured.

30,000 Bangladeshi workers, some of them children just 10, 11, 12 and 13 years of age, toil 12 hours a day, seven days a week, for wages of just 22 to 32 cents an hour, doing one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. According to estimates between 1,000 and 2,000 workers have been killed in Bangladesh's shipbreaking yards over the last 30 years (see notes to editors).

Currently, a worker is seriously injured every day, and a worker is killed every three or four weeks.

Some of the world's largest decommissioned tanker ships - measuring up to 1,000 feet long, 20 stories high and weighing 25 million pounds - have been run up on the beaches of Bangladesh. In July 2009, 112 tanker ships were strewn over four miles of beach.

Derek Simpson, Unite joint general secretary, said: "The three recent and tragic deaths in the shipbreaking yards of Bangladesh must be the last. No matter where workers are in the world they should not have to face death to barely feed and clothe their families.

"Workers Uniting - the global union - will be doing everything in its power to end the horrendous working conditions in Bangladesh. The union intends to launch an international campaign to reform these shipbreaking yards.

"There should be work, it is a vital industry for tens of thousands of people for whom no alternative employment exists, but the working conditions must be totally overhauled and the bosses held to account for the deaths of workers and the appalling conditions."


Notes to editors

Workers Uniting, the world’s first global union is a partnership between Unite from the United Kingdom and the United Steelworkers (USW) from the United States and Canada.

Information on the Workers Uniting shipbreaking campaign.

Contact: Ciaran Naidoo on 07768 931 315

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