KARACHI - Lives of thousands of Pakistani ship breaker workers are at the stake as the government is not ready to intervene and implement workplace safety and health rules at ship breaking yards, said leading labour leaders, addressing a protest rally here on Thursday.

The National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) held a rally on the occasion of the second anniversary of ‘November 1, 2016 mishap’ at Gadani ship breaking yard in which 29 workers had died when a Japanese oil tanker caught fire.

The rally was led by NTUF President Muhammad Rafiq Baloch and a large number of workers attended it to pay homage to the martyred workers. The rally ended at the Yard Number 54, where two years ago a ship named Fudreal M-T Aces had caught fire.

Addressing the rally, NTUF Deputy General Secretary Nasir Mansoor said that despite passage of two years no betterment could be witnessed in the lives and working conditions of thousands of ship breaking workers.

He said that after the mishap a senate committee headed by the federal minister for defense production was set up, besides another committee of the members of the National Assembly to probe the mishap.

While the government of Baluchistan had also ordered an investigation but so far no concrete development is made on this issue. He said that this shows the height of the apathy of the government.

He said that due to this negative attitude of the government incidents occur regularly at Gadani and the lives of ship breaking workers are still at the stake.

He said that the workers’ bodies have already submitted a draft bill on ship breaking to the government but the government is not interested in holding serious talks on it or promoting the ship breaking industry.

He said that despite repeated promises of the government the owners and contractors of ships are not ready to see implementation of laws at Gadani and they have made the Gadani ship breaking yard virtually as their fiefdom. The workers are forced to live in almost slavery conditions.

The general secretary of Ship Breaking Workers Union Gadani Gul Rehman said a fake labor union made by illegal labour contractor is forcibly collecting contributions from workers, while the real labour union is compelled not to work here. He said that the owners of ship are fully involved in this malpractice.

The labour leaders announced that they along with human rights organisations would file a petition in the Supreme Court, besides continuing their struggle against anti-worker forces. They said that they are consulting on this matter with leading lawyer and ex-president of Supreme Court Bar Association Justice (r) Rashid A Razvi.