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  • Bangladeshi Shipbreakers Among Most Dangerous Jobs In The World; Pays Only Cents Per Hour
    Posted On: Jul 24, 2016

    By JoAnne Powers, July 25, 2016

    When they reach the end of their life, large ships such as tankers and freighters are often sent to South Asia to be recycled.  Major international shipping lines sell the ships to wealthy scrapyard owners.  Barbara Briggs, Associate Director of the Pittsburgh-based Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights, says it’s one of the most dangerous jobs in the world:

    [Barbara Briggs]: “Instead of the sending the ships to dry dock where trained workers with Hazmat Suits are taking the ships apart with automated equipment, they are sending them to Bangladesh.  They hire young men and boys, hand them blowtorches and they’re literally working to take these gigantic ships apart with their bare hands.  No protective equipment, no helmets, no respiratory masks, no welders masks.  They literally are wearing bandanas to protect their faces and coarse denim shirts to keep the sparks from burning their bodies.”

    Twelve workers in a population of twelve-thousand shipbreakers in Bangladesh have died on the job in the first six months of 2016:

    [Barbara Briggs]: “Heavy pieces of metal are falling and crushing them.  It’s fall injuries, dying of asphyxiation overcome by carbon monoxide and toxic fumes down in the holds of the ship, gas explosions, burns.  It’s very, very, very dangerous.  Too many workers are being killed and many more are being severely injured and maimed.  Everybody’s making money on the backs of these young men and boys who are paid 40 and 50 cents an hour to recycle these ships at great, great danger to themselves.”

    Briggs says shipyard owners typically just abandon workers after they are injured [and can’t work in the yards anymore]:

    [Barbara Briggs]: “A cutterman, a highly skilled worker, had worked for years…a ship’s propeller came down on top of him, hit him in the head, blinded him in the right eye and sheared off his left leg.  He’s been left for the last year and a half with basically no income, very little medical care, one leg.  On june 20th, there was another accident, the cutter was killed, it was a gas explosion, and his assistant was very badly burned and one of his feet was blown off.  So he’s now in the hospital fighting for his life.  A couple of years ago we went to the villages where many of these workers come from.  They look like war zones.  Workers with no legs, workers with no hands.  They’re left with virtually nothing that they can do to support themselves and their families.”

    The institute is launching a fund to aid these injured workers in Bangladesh and is about to issue a report on the shipbreaking industry.  Briggs says we need to be challenging shipping companies to make sure they’re recycling in a safe and environmentally sound way, encouraging listeners to visit for more information:

     [Barbara Briggs]: “Our sense is that everybody can do something to help protect the rights of workers in the developing world who are making our products.  It’s just a matter of learning a little bit and doing what we can, and if we all do something, it will be a much better place.”

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