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Shipbreaking Workers in Bangladesh Speak Out

September 30, 2009  |  Share

September 30, 2009

The National Labor Committee is releasing transcripts of eight of the interviews we did with shipbreaking workers in Bangladesh between February and September 2009.  In their own words, the workers describe the deadly September 5 fire at the Kabir shipbreaking yard that needlessly killed two workers and left three others severely burned.  Workers from the "Lucky" shipyard describe how an 18-year-old co-worker was crushed to death on April 19 when a huge piece of metal from the ship fell on him.  Workers describe the complete and criminal indifference of management, which refuses to implement even the most rudimentary safety precautions that could save lives.  The shipbreaking workers have no rights and are trapped in misery.


Transcript #1: Interview with Kabir Workers speaking about the deadly September 5 fire

Transcript #2:  Interview with workers who witnessed the deadly September 5 fire at Kabir shipbreaking yard

Transcript #3 A Third Interview with Kabir shipbreaking yard worker

Transcript #4: An Interview with Workers of Lucky Shipyard—Worker Crushed to Death

Transcript #5: Interview with Workers from Lucky Shipbreaking Yard, also known as "M&M Shipbreaking Yard"

Transcript #6 Meeting with Workers from the Bhatiary Steel Shipbreaking Yard

Transcript #7: Meeting with shipbreaking workers of the Pupali Enterprise and GD Subadar Shipyards

Transcript #8:  Shipbreakers, July 16, 2009  


Transcript #1:

Interview with Kabir Workers speaking about the deadly September 5 fire

September 6, 2009

00:01 Interviewer: What's your name brother? 

00:02 Worker: My name is Y--.

00:04 Interviewer: What do you do?

00:05 Y.: I work at Kabir Shipyard.

00:09 Interviewer: Why did you come to the medical center today?

00:10 Y.: To see a patient.

00:12 Interviewer: Which patient?  A patient who was burned?

00:13 Y.: Yes.

00:15 Interviewer: Who is this burned patient?

00:17 Y.: Mr. Jahangir, my relative. We worked together.

00:23 Interviewer: What's his condition now?

00:24 Y.: Now he is getting better. But his face was burned so badly, it was difficult to recognize him.  His head was swollen, his face was disfigured

00:36 Interviewer: How do you feel now after seeing him?

00:38 Y.: I feel very bad, we worked together.  If he could have got out just a minute earlier, he could have escaped these horrible burns. Now, a brother cannot recognize his brother.

00:52 Interviewer: You could not identify him, he is so very badly burned?

00:54 Y.: Yes.

00:56 Interviewer: Was he inside a tank?

00:57 Y.: Yes, he was in the tank.

00:58 Interviewer: Were you also working in the same tank?

00:59 Y.: No, I just left that tank and entered to another tank. After getting out from the previous tank, I took only a minute to enter the other tank; in the meantime the fire broke out. I don't know how and from where the fire came.

1:15 Interviewer: I heard that the cutter men were cutting with their blowtorches and below the fitter men were busy unbolting and taking apart the pipes and oil tanks. 

1:23 Y.: Yes, I heard that.

1:28 Interviewer: A spark from the flame fell down, where there was fuel and gas.

1:31 Y.: It was not oil, it was a kind of octane that spreads very fast. The fire broke out from such fuel

1:48 Interviewer:  At what time did the accident occur?

1:50 Y.: At around 9:00 am to 9:30 am.

1:54 Interviewer: Were you together there?

1:56 Y.: We were 30 workers in total and were divided into two groups.

2:09 Worker (white shirt): 15 workers kept on one side and another 15 were for the other side. Five workers were assigned for a tank on one side. There is a stairway from that tank where we can go to other tank, which takes some time. When the fire occurred, they fell back into the tank. They wanted to get to the other tank using the ladder, but the fire blocked this path and they could not get out.

Then they tried to go out through the top part of the ship. In the meantime, the huge flames hit them.  Their hands, legs everything were burned up, it was not possible to recognize them. When these workers were going down, we, the 15 workers were asking is there any worker on the top of us. They said that yes. But we could not see anybody due to fire and gas & smoke. There was another ship beside ours. Someone said, there is an accident, come hurry. We thought that the accident happened in that ship. But, it was out of our imagination that the workers of our ship, our brother are burned so horrendously, we could not think about it. That's why we always say to the In-charge to stop the work of the cutters when we work down below. There are many combustible sources, like gas, oil, fuel.  It's very risky work at these bottom chambers.  We told the foreman this several times, but he refused to listen and told us to get back to work exactly where he placed us.

4:25 Y.: Some days before, around 10-15 days, a fire broke out on the same ship. We were all on top. When the cutter was cutting from the upper side, we were ordered to work at the bottom. The fire broke out at the place where we used to work. Suddenly, the fire spread all over.  We were afraid and raced out from that place.

4:53 Interviewer: Hey brother, you said your In-charge told the cutters to cut from the top part of a ship and the fitters should work down below. You advised him not to do it in that manner but he did not listen to you?

5:07 Worker (white shirt): No, he did not listen to us.

5:08 Interviewer: After this accident, wasn't there any movement or strike by the workers because of what happened?

5:12 Worker (white shirt): No, no, there was nothing happened like this.

5:17 Interviewer: Didn't workers stop their work?

5:19 Y.: Now the work is going on. The duty was stopped only that day when the accident occurred.

5:27 Interviewer: Don't you think that the accident occurred due to the mistake of the In-charge?

5:30 Worker (white shirt): Yes, he is the person that is fully responsible.

5:34 Y.: Even, where the fire was raging, he ordered us to stay working there. He went there himself and ordered us to work on coil-pipes.

5:42 Worker (white shirt): We were taken down to the bottom of the ship, for that reason the workers died. One died, and the others faces have been disfigured. If Allah considers them, these workers can get a new life. Otherwise, it is very difficult to survive. The medical treatments being provided are not satisfactory. The suffering of these workers cannot be explained. The condition of their faces, chests, hands and legs is terrifying.

6:13 Y.:  Even if they live, it will be impossible for them to go out in public because people will be afraid when they see their faces.

6:19 Interviewer: Do you think that Jahangir Bhai, Asheque Bhai, and Khokon Bhai will be able to return to normal life and will be able to lead life like normal men?

6:27 Worker (white shirt): The doctors are saying"we are assuming " we want them to live.

6:37 Y.: But, it won't be possible for them to be normal like before. The medical treatment should be provided in such a way that the workers can get their lives back as before. We are requesting doctors to do such and such things. They don't have any good intention.

6:50 Interviewer: Why don't they give the proper treatment?

6:51 Y.: Why don't they work, we don't know.

6:52 Interviewer: Is it for shortage of money?

6:54 Y.: There is no shortage of money. The company will give one million taka if needed.

6:03 Interviewer: Why do you think the doctors are not helpful? Do you think they should be shifted to a better medical hospital for better treatment?

7:11 Workers: Yes, the treatment here is not provided properly. They should be taken to a better private hospital.

7:17 Interviewer: Whose condition is the most vulnerable?

7:19 Worker (white shirt): The situations of all the workers are vulnerable and almost similar.

7:30 Interviewer: The worker Hossain died, what happened the last time you were with him before his death?

7:36 Y.:  Hossain could not see at the end.  I was there and I saw him. Hossain scolded "Stupid, leave me". He wanted to drink.  He was unable to breathe through his nose. Then I said to the doctor he cannot breathe, do something for him. The doctor said that he won't live. I took him in my arms.  He was """.    And the third time, he died. """""""his water was all over my body.

8:22 Interviewer: Were you in the medical when he died?

Yes, I was there.


Transcript #2:

Interview with workers who witnessed the deadly September 5 fire at Kabir shipbreaking yard

September 6, 2009

00:01 Interviewer: What's your name?

00:03 Worker: My name is M S..

00:04 Interviewer: Where is your home?

00:05 S.: I come from Bogra.

00:06 Interviewer: What do you do?

00:07 S.: I work at a shipyard. At Kabir Shipyard.

00:12 Interviewer: For how long you are working there?

00:13 S.: I have been working for this shipyard for the last nine years.

00:16 Interviewer: Nine years?

00:17 S.: Yes.

00:19 Interviewer: Do you know about the accident that happened very recently?

00:22 S.: Yes, I know.

00:26 Interviewer: Where were you that time?

00:28 S.: I was working. The fire started from a [blowtorch] spark from our cutting at the top.

00:33 Interviewer: Could you please explain how did it happen?

00:35 S.:  I was cutting an iron plate on the upper level of the ship using my blowtorch.  The fitters were below at the bottom of the ship.  The fire started slowly, but within seconds flames spread over the whole area.  Then I threw down my torch.  I came out at once; some of our helpers also got out with me. Another helper escaped the place through a door on the top of the ship.

01:02 Interviewer: Where were you cutting during that time, on the upper deck or bottom of the ship? 

01:06 S.: I was on the upper portion of the ship using my blowtorch.

01:09 Interviewer: Those who are victim of this accident, where were they?

01:11 S.: They were working in the lower part of the ship.

01:13 Interviewer:  Did you know that they were working below you?  Why did you run your blowtorch?

01:18 S.: No, we didn't know. If I knew that they were working there and an accident could occur like this, we would never start our cutting.

01:25 Interviewer: I was told that the workers have to work in the place according to the orders given by the management, is it correct?

01:30 S.: Yes, this is true.

1:33 S.: Whatever the In-charge instructs us, we are obliged to listen as the foremen are our boss and captain. Whatever they tell us, we have to abide by their commands.

1:45 Interviewer: What is your reaction about this great accident? And, what should be done now?

1:47 S.: The company should check the gas, oil and fuel and take necessary steps to wash them out. If they would have done that there would not be victims of such an accident. 

2:02 Interviewer: One minute please. As you said about the servicing and cleaning—what did you mean by it?

2:07 S.: If there is any oil, fuel or gas, it should be removed, freed somehow. The oils, chemicals of different pipes and machines should be wasted out with running water. This is called servicing.

2:21 Interviewer: Who is responsible for this?

2:22 S.: This is the responsibility of the company itself.

2:24 Interviewer: Do by the companies do it?

2:25 S.: Some companies don't do this.

2:26 Interviewer: Why don't they do it?

2:28 S.: May be it's a matter of money.

2:31 Interviewer: How much needs to be done, and what kind of expenditure?

2:32 S.: If 50 or 100 workers are occupied for this work, the attendance fee, bill, salary will have to be provided by the company. For that reason, the management doesn't do this. They would rather give the responsibility to us, the helpers and cutter men have to clean them.

2:48 S.: If there is any gas in the ships, its weight seems to be lighter. If the ships need to be pulled form the tide, this gas can be used. If there is no gas, the ship will be heavy and sink downward, for that reason they don't service the ships.

3:05 Interviewer: What is your wage?

3:08 S.: My salary is 215 taka for 8 hour duty.

3:16 Interviewer: Are you happy with your payment?

3:18 S.: No, I am not satisfied. Because, what we are doing here with hard labor cannot be compared with any payment.

3:22 Interviewer: When do you go to your duty?

3:24 S.: Now, I go to my duty at 6:00 am.

3:26 Interviewer: And, when do you come back?

3:27 S.: I come back at around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m.. I used to work 10/11 hours. After 8 hours, the OT is counted.

3:34 Interviewer: Usually, when do the workers go to their duties?

3:39 S.: At 6:00 am.

3:42 Interviewer: From what time does the duty start?

3:44 S.: We workers come at 6:00 am.  We need a half an hour to change clothes and then start working.

3:50 Interviewer: From what time is the duty counted?

3:51 S.: From 6:00 am. During the Ramadan the duty starts at 6:00 am and after Ramadan, the duty will start again at 7:00 am.

4:05 Interviewer: I came to know that the duty starts at 7:00 am and ends at 6:00 pm during the Ramadan.

4:10 S.: Yes, this is also being practiced in many fields. But, we practice what I just said. We start work at 6:00 am.

4:16 Interviewer: From 6:00 am to evening?

4:18 S.: From 6:00 am to 5:00 pm.

4:20 Interviewer: So, how many hours are for general duty?

4:22 S.: 11 hours.
44:23 Interviewer: No, general duty.

44:24 S.: The general duty is 8 hours as per rule. And, the duties afterwards are counted as OT.

44: 30 Interviewer: How many hours are you working as general duty.

44:31 S.: 11 hours.

4:33 Interviewer: Now you are doing 8 hours of general duty and what about OT?

4:37 S.: 3 hours for OT duty.

4:40 Interviewer: 3 hours for OT and you are working 11 hours of total duty. You enter at 6:00 am and leave the ship at 5:00 am? Do you get there just in time?

4:51 S.: Yes we attend our duty just in time.

4:56 Interviewer: When the accident occurred, the workers were victim of the fire, and a worker died. What did you do then?

5:03 S.: I did not see how it happened. But, after our escape from the ship, those workers could not get out. As they were farther inside than us, they did not have time to exit.  Also, we did not know they were still inside. If we had seen them, we would have warned them or stopped our cutting. But, we did not know that they entered there.

When I was crossing over the ship, I was looking for my helpers. Our helpers were able to escap in time and be safe. One worker managed to escape through the door in the roof. I asked him is there any worker inside? He said there were four more workers still inside. Afterwards, another worker came through that door and he said three more workers are there. Through this process while I asked the fourth person, he said one more person was there.

The man who died, he finally got out of the ship.  His clothes were burned off, he was naked and his skin was charred.  When I touched the skin on his hand, the skin came off sticking to my finger.  I could see that some skin and flesh had been torn from his body.  We laid him on the deck.  Then he was taken down in a container.  It took 20 to 25 minutes. If the company had any preparation to face such crisis, the accident might have been avoided.

For example, if the company had an ambulance in the yard, they could have taken the injured workers to the hospital, and his life might have been saved. But the company did not do that. For that reason, it took time to send him for medical treatment. The pump was also closed; there was no way to use water on the fire. And, the in-charge did not inform us that he sent workers there. This also happened due to the carelessness of the In-charge, it's an example of his utter failure. Because he did not permit us to cut a door in the side of the ship saying that thieves will enter here. I asked him 2-3 times, but he did not permit me.

7:11 Interviewer: If any worker gets sick, does the company bear the whole expenditure?

7:14 S.: The company allows 8-hour payment.  Medical treatments are sometimes given—but not fully. Usually, they give 10-20 taka per day for medicines. These are the steps taken in normal cases. But, if there is any serious accident, the company continues medical treatment for some more days.

7:32  Interviewer:  Does the company provide any compensation with significant payments for such accidents when the worker dies?

7:35 S.: It depends on the company how much they will give. We are not informed about this. We have seen many companies provided 100,000 or 200,000 or 120,000 taka as compensation.  (The company tries to manage with the lowest possible amount, said another worker.) We don't know how much was paid by our company. And, it is a responsibility of the company to send to the dead body to his home.

7:58 Interviewer: What problems do you face working at your company?

8:02 S.:  We need insulated work suits and gloves, hard hats, boots and goggles.  Sometimes sparks from the [blowtorch] flame and gas hurt our eyes, but the necessary equipment is not supplied to us.  Inside the chambers, there are gas and fumes, but we work without respirators to cover our nose and mouth.  We explained this many times to management.  But the shipyard managers completely ignore these basic safety measures.  If a worker tries to make his voice heard regarding these issues, he loses his job.  This is the rule here.

Transcript #3

A Third Interview with Kabir shipbreaking yard worker

September 7, 2009

00:01 Interviewer: What is your name, please?

00:02 Worker: Mr. Alam.

00:03 Interviewer: What do you do?

00:04 Alam: I work for Kabir Shipyard in a Fitter Group.

00:08 Interviewer: Concerning the recent accident, do you know Mr. Hossain, Mr. Kuddus, Mr. Ashek and Mr. Jahangir.

00:14 Alam: Yes, of course, I know them.

00:15 Interviewer: How did the accident occur?

00:17 Alam: We went down to a tank at the bottom of the ship to take apart the pipes.  After half an hour, the supervisor ordered the cutter-men to start cutting apart the ship above us.  We argued with the supervisor not to put the cutter-men there as it endangered us.  But the in-charge did not listen to us and ordered the cutter-men to start cutting.  Sparks from their blow torches fell into the bottom tank and a fire ignited.  We ran from the tank and went up.  The five workers who were unable to get out on time were trapped by the huge dense black smoke making it harder to get out.  Their bodies were burned by fire.  The condition of two workers was extremely critical.  The other three workers were a little better off than them.  Their condition also deteriorated as the management delayed sending them to the hospital.

1:15 Interviewer: When they were taken to the hospital?

1:19 Alam: These workers were taken to the hospital 1 or 1.5 hours after the accident.

1:21 Interviewer: After 1 to 1.5 hour, why?

1:23 Alam: They did not pay heed to this accident, did not give it any importance.

1.25 Interviewer: Why were they so careless about arranging medical treatment?

1:27 Alam: The management staff and authorities did not take the matter seriously in arranging medical treatment by sending them to the hospital. After half an hour, we started thinking about them, they are my relatives, one of them is my nephew and another is cousin. We were running to and fro. These injured workers were taken to the hospital after one and half hour.

1:55 Interviewer: Do you also work at this field?

1:56 Interviewer: Yes.

1:57 Interviewer: What's your name, please?

1:59 Worker: My name is M--.

2:01 Interviewer: In which group are you working for?

2:02 M: I am working in a Fitter group.

2:04 Interviewer: Did you see how the fire was started and spread?

2:06 M: No, I was not at my duty during the day of accident. I was on leave.

2:09 Interviewer: Did you hear about it?

2:11 M: I came back on that night and came to know about this situation. One of the victims is my cousin, lives beside our house. I became scared hearing about this accident. I went to the medical college hospital at night and saw all the injured workers. It was horrible, their faces were completely changed, and it's not like a human face. The portion below their knee has been burned; their face and hair was burned; their throats were burnt, it was horrifying and scary. At 1:30 am, a worker named Hossain of Kazipur died. It's true it happened and we have to forget it. There was a mistake, they said and I heard. The cutter-men were cutting iron plates on the top with their blow-torch while fitter-men were working below to take apart fuel tanks.  If the cutter-men had not cut with fire during that time, the accident would have not occurred. The cutter-men were cutting, the fitter-men were working, the spark hit the fuel tank—fire broke out-- created dense black smoke, the workers could not see anything because of this black smoke, and they ran away from the place and became victims of such an accident. It is very tragic news. The workers here work very hard, all the workers have to work hard, we all are laborers here, working here for payment. If we can work carefully and if the authority can instruct workers with caution, the accidents can be prevented.

3:53 Interviewer: That means you want to say that if the In-charge had not instructed the cutter-men to work, then the accident would have not taken place?

3:56 Worker: Yes.

4:04 Interviewer: Do you think that the plan of work should be changed? The equipments like helmets, sunglasses etc. are necessary.

4:11 Worker: Listen to me. We need insulated work suits and gloves, hard hats, boots, [respiratory] masks and goggles; but we don't get anything from the company. We have to work there with bare feet. We are provided with neither safety shoes nor gum boots. To work in an iron field, workers need safety shoes and helmets. Anything can fall on your head like bolts and screws, iron and all sorts of scrap from above. Sometime workers are injured by heavy things hitting their heads. It happens several times in every month. But they don't take any safety measures for the workers. If we ask for a pair of gloves, they management shouts "Why do you need gloves to work here". Thus, they humiliate us.

4:57 Interviewer: What other types of misbehave they do?

4:59 Worker: They don't consider us as human or as a worker—treat us like animal.

5:04 Interviewer: They consider you as outsiders?

5:06 Worker: They treat us as outsider-coming from other part of Bangladesh

5:08 Interviewer: So, they are local people, and are behaving rude with you.

5:10 Worker: Yes.

5:14 Interviewer: Hossain, Kuddus and Jahangir; how was their behavior? What kind of men they are?

5:19 Worker: These workers behavior was excellent—they are good men. I don't know why Allah curses on them. They never quarrel with anybody. Men like them are rare. You won't find a man like Hossain. He was man of middle age, used to say prayers regularly, a poor man, a very poor man.  If he had not been poor, he would not have come to work here cutting iron.

Interviewer: Brother, the victims are now in hospital for medical treatment. How are feeling now? What about medical treatment?  What do you think?

Worker: The workers are getting medical treatment at a public hospital. This treatment is not good. They are now in the hospital corridor. The doctors are smearing ointments on their burns. Gradually their conditions are getting worse. I urge you to take steps to shift them to better place for specialized medical care. They need better treatment which the public hospital lacks. They may die if they continue to stay here without proper care. Private clinics provide quality services. If you kindly help them getting admission into a private clinic we will be grateful.      

Interviewer: That means you are saying that victims are not getting proper healthcare services. You are asking for better medical treatment for the burn victims that the public hospital lacks

Worker: The Company is arranging medical treatment. The services here are not sufficient enough for the critical condition of these patients.  The company must pay. We are poor workers—how can we arrange money for treatment? We are trying to raise some money but that  is limited and not enough for better treatment. Treatment in the public hospital will not save their lives. We would be grateful if you would kindly take steps for better medical treatment for the victims.

Worker: We are working here to support our lives. When the month is over and it is time to pay our wages the management makes delays—says payment will be made today--then tomorrow and so on. Thus payment is always delayed and as a result we must take food items on credit from the grocery shop and the landlord shouts at us for being late in paying our house rent. The management records the wage rate as Tk. 230 but in reality we get paid only Tk.130. We do not know where and how the rest of the money goes. We are poor workers, illiterate and cannot protest this unjust treatment.

If we could bargain with management we could have realize more of our needs

When we enter the ship-breaking the management offers us to pay Tk.250 a day. After working one month when we get paid we see they are paying us Tk. 125 a day. Where does the rest of the money go? The management knows better. In addition the management withholds 15 days wages so that we can't flee from the shipyard. How can we survive if they keep 15 days wage at hand. We have our families, parents and kids—how can they survive?

If we try to bargain to gain our rights they call names, shout at us, even beat us. If we could raise these issues all the workers will be greatly benefited.   
Interview with another Kabir  Shipyard worker:

00:01 Interviewer: What is your name, please?

00:03 Worker: My name is S., I work at the Kabir shipyard. I was present at the spot when the accident took place. I work in the same ship. I am cutter man. The worker died--I myself rescued him. When I held him, he was so burned that his body melted with burns. His flesh and burned skin stuck to my hands. It was so horrible an accident that later I got sick.   They were taken to the hospital. The man who died was a good man. He worked at the Kabir shipyard for many years. Five workers got horrendously injured. I would blame the In-Charge for the accident.

00:33 Worker: The pump was not in operation. It was stopped. The workers were asked to cut the fuel pump. The In-charge asked them to shut down the door so that nothing can be stolen from the chamber.

00:43: Due to the negligence of In-charge this accident occurred. No cutter man got injured. Two of my helpers jumped and got out of the ship. They escaped from the deadly accident. Those five fitter workers received severe burn injuries.

01.00: The management delayed taking them to the hospital. I also blamed the management as they did not provide any gloves as frequently demanded  by the workers. There were no supplies of safety equipment at that time and that caused the burns to be worse.

Transcript #4:

An Interview with Workers of Lucky Shipyard—Worker Crushed to Death

August 2009

00:01 Interviewer: Brother, what's your name?

00:03 Worker: My name is M..

00:05 Interviewer: Home District?

00:06 M.: Joypurhat

00:08 Interviewer: Joypur hat?
00:09 M.: Yes.

00:11 Interviewer: In which field are you working?

00:13 M.: I work for 'Lucky'.

0014 Interviewer: What's your designation?

00:16 M.: Cutterman.

00:17 Interviewer: Cutterman?

00:18 M.: Yes.

00:20 Interviewer:  How long have you been working at the shipyard?

00:23 M.: About 5-7 years.

00:24 Interviewer: 5-7 years?

00:25 M.: Yes.

00:26 Interviewer: In which shift are you working?

00:27 M.: Lucky.

00:28 Interviewer: No, which shift?

00:30 M.: Cutter.

00:31 Interviewer: No, day shift or night shift?

00:33 M.: Night shift.

00:36 Interviewer: What's your salary, brother?

00:38 M.: My salary is given as per work"like we start work at 8:00 am".

00:45 Interviewer: No, no, I was asking about your salary.

00:48: Salary? My salary is 150 taka.

00:51 Interviewer: 150 taka for 8 hour work?

00:53 M.: Yes.

00:57 Interviewer: When do you get your salary?

00:59 M.: Our salary, suppose we get at 5th and 20th of the following month. The salary is paid every two weeks.

01:08 Interviewer: Do you work every day in a week.

01:10 M.: No, its not possible to work everyday.

01:12 Interviewer: Why?

01:14 M.: After working two days in a row I cannot work for next 3/4 days. It is very hard job.

01:28 Interviewer: When do you go to work?

01:30 M.: At 8:00 pm. That is we have to attend at 7:30 pm at the field. And we have to work till at 8:30 am.

01:42 Interviewer: What about dinner?

01:44 M.: We have no opportunity to take meal at night.

01:49 Interviewer: Aren't you provided with any tea time or anything like that?

01:51 M.: Yes, with very light food, like nimki (fried flour) and parata (bread)

01:55 (Worker close Mr. M.): At around 2:00 am, the company provides nimki which costs 3 taka and workers are given sometime leisure to eat anything with our own money. Dinner break at 10.00 pm. Another break is at 6:00 am to eat something with our own money. The company only gives one break at 2:00 for nimki or biscuit which is 3 taka per piece. Also, tea is served which has no taste at all, none will be able to drink that.

02:22 Interviewer: Do you get leaves from the company?

02:24 Worker (right one): We are not provided with leaves. We just don't go to work on our own when any urgent situation comes. For example, if I need to go my village, then we take leave and go to village. We are not provided with any payments for those days when we are on leave.

02:36 Interviewer: If you become sick, the company doesn't provide you any leave?

02:39 Worker: No, no, if you can't work, you will not be paid.

02:41 Interviewer: If one cannot work, there is no payment?

02:43 Worker: No, there is no payment if we cannot work.

02:47 Interviewer: How much is your salary?

02:49 Worker: As I am a helper, I am paid 125 for 8 hour duty.

03:01 Interviewer: How much can you earn a month on average?

03:03 Worker: I cannot work all the days in a month as the work here is very hard. I can work 25 days or 20 days a month. As my family is very needy, I am obliged to work as much as possible though its very hard labor. The salary is poor. I have to manage some money within it and send some money at home.

03:33 Interviewer: What time do you enter at your duty place.

03:37 M.: At 8:00 pm.

03:40 Interviewer: And at morning?

03:42 Workers: Till at 8:00 am.

03:44 Interviewer: During your duty, did there anything happen very frightening?

03:48 M.: Yes, it happens very often? Even workers die in front of us our eyes.

03:53 Worker: For example, just in three months or it may be three and half months before, one worker died.

4:00 M.: His name was Babul.

4:01 Interviewer: What's his name?

4:03 Worker: His name was Babul.

4:04 Interviewer: From where he came?

4:05 Workers: Hasnabad.

04:06 Interviewer: Hasanbad?

04:07 Workers: Yes, Hasnabad.

04:10 Interviewer: How did he die?

04:11 Mahamud: A iron plate fell on him.

04:21 Interviewer: Okay, did the worker die in front of you?

04:23 Workers: Yes, in front of us. """"""""""

04:27 Interviewer: How did he die, could you please explain?

04:32 M.: Okay, like one parda"

04:41 Interviewer: What is parda?

04:43 M.: Parda means the iron plate (load), means the parts of ships. This iron plate was being cut on its upper side. Suddenly, the load slipped down and fell on him and he died.

05:01 Interviewer: Did the load fall on him?

05:05 Worker: The steel plate fell on him and the heavy load crushed him.

05:15 M.:  The plate was supposed to be secured so it could be cut from any side, but the load suddenly fell on him.   Afterwards, the load was turned aside with a machine [a winch] to get the man out. We all helped to get him out.

05:42 Interviewer: When did the incident happen?

05:44 Workers: It was 3 or 3.5 months ago.

05:46 Interviewer: 3 months or 3 and half months?

05:47 Worker M.: Yes. On 19th April at around 10:00 pm or 11:00 pm.

05:57 Another worker: To get the dead body out from under the load, it took from 12 midnight to 1:00 am.

6:00 Interviewer: To get the dead body out?

6:01 Workers: Yes. """"""""""""""".. It was not possible to do without a machine. We all worked together with the machine. After attaching the machine, we were able to take the load off of the man.

6:22 Interviewer: How was the dead body after it was released from the load?

6:24 M.: The metal plate was turned over with the machine and we saw that his appearance was changed. He was just smashed by the load. Our work is so risky that we always face deadly situations.

6:51 Interviewer: When anyone dies, do you stop your work?

6:55 Workers: Yes, we stop our work.

6:57 Interviewer: Don't you protest?
7:00 Worker: The owner doesn't allow it. If anyone protests, will be ousted.

7:07 Interviewer: What happens if workers protest?

7:11 Worker: Workers will be out if they protest. Workers will not be allowed then to stay in the field.

7:17 Interviewer: Okay the worker who died in your field, what was his name?

7:21 Worker: Babul.

7:23 Interviewer: Did he get the compensation?

7:25 M.: Yes, very little amount, very insignificant amount. On the other hand, money is nothing to a life. If anyone lost his life, what will he do with the money? Is it possible to get the man alive again if the money is given?

7:50 Interviewer: Do you know how much was given to his family? Do you know anything regarding this?

7:56 M.: We heard that only 20,000 taka was given.

8:00 Interviewer: Didn't you see while the money was given?

8:02 M.: No, we didn't see it.

8:04 Interviewer: Wasn't it provided in front of you?

8:05 M.: No.

8:08 Interviewer: What do you think about your working environment here?

8:16 Worker: The environment is worse than a prison. We work here only to buy food to survive. Otherwise, it is not a workplace fit for a human being. I have no words to explain. My colleague might tell something, but I can't explain.

8:39 Interviewer: Brother, what's your name?

8:41 Worker: My name is F..

8:42 Interviewer: In which field are you working?

8:43 F.:  Lucky filed.

8:44 Interviewer: For how long?

8:46 F.: For 3/4 years.

8:49 Interviewer: Okay, a worker died here in Lucky field, is it true?

8:54 Interviewer: What was his name?

8:55 F.: His name was Babul.

8:57 Interviewer: Where is he from?

8:58 F.: Hasnabad.

8:59 Interviewer: Hasnabad?

9:00 Interviewer: How long ago did the worker die?

9:03 F.: May be three or three and half months ago.

9:05 Interviewer: Three and half months?

9:06 F.: Yes.

9:07 Interviewer: How did the worker die?

9:08 F.: A huge iron plate fell on him.

9:13 Interviewer: Did he die in front of you?

9:15 F.: Yes, he died in front of us.

9:17 Interviewer: What was his position?

9:18 F.: He was cutter.

9:20 Interviewer: Cutter man?

9:21 F.: Yes.

9:23 Interviewer: When he died in front of you, what did you do then?

9:27 F.: We stopped our work and used a machine to pull the iron plate from him. He was disfigured with the pressure of load. This iron plate was huge and it took some time to work with it and we had to work till mid-night. Afterwards, his dead body was taken for post mortem. A lump-sump money was given to his parents.

10:03 Interviewer: What do you mean by lump-sump money, how much was given?
10:05 F.: Around 10,000 taka.

10:06 Interviewer: Not more than that?

10:07 F.: Hmm.

10:10 Interviewer: How do you feel working here/

10:14 F.: What can I say.  We are fighting with death always. This is not work. This is a place of punishment and death.

10:31 Interviewer: Brother, what's your name?

10:33 Worker:  My name is A--. 

10:34 Interviewer: A--?

10:35 A.: Hmm.

10:36 Interviewer: Which field are you working for?

10:38 A.: Lucky field.

10:39 Interviewer: For how long?

10:40 A.: Around for last 7/8 years.

10:43 Interviewer: 7/8 years?

10:44 A.: Yea.

10:47 Interviewer: How much are you paid?

10:48 A.: I am getting" you intend to know my salary in a month or in 8 hour?

10:54 Interviewer: In 8 hours.

10:57 A.: In 8 hours, I get 145 taka.

10:59 Interviewer: What is the payment system here? Are you paid by month or by week?

11:01 A.: The salary is paid on the 5th and 20th. Payment is given every 15 days.

11:05 Interviewer: How much do you get in 15 days?

11:07 A.: 2,400 to 2,500 taka.

11:11 Interviewer: Are you happy with this salary?

11:13 A.: No, this is very poor amount. We are obliged to do this work to survive.

11:18 Interviewer: Do you get sick working here?

11:20 A.: Of course. """"

11:24 Interviewer: Are you able to work 30 days a month?

11:26 A.: No, it's not possible.

11:28 Interviewer: Why?

11:29 A.: I cannot do this, because it's very painful work. Our hands and legs are being hurt, burned by fire. We always have headaches, its very hard job.

11:40 Interviewer: Have you every faced any dangerous situation while working? Or, did you see any danger?

11:43 A.: Yes, I have seen.

11:45 Interviewer: How was that, please explain.

11:46 A.: I have seen many worker's legs and hands broken. Many workers died.

11:53 Interviewer: As per your knowledge, do you know anyone died?

11:56 A.: Yes, of course, I know workers died.

11:57 Interviewer: Please explain what happened?

11:59 A.: A huge iron plate was raised up, the upper portion of it was cut and afterwards, the lower portion was being cut. While it was being cut on its lower portion, the whole plate fell on a worker. Then all the workers, 40-50 workers, all helped to pull  the plate off with a machine. Then we took the man out from that place and took him to the office. The worker actually died on the spot. He just died there. We put him at the office and we all were ordered to get out from there.

12:52 Interviewer: What do you mean that you were all forced to get out?

12:54 A.: We were asked to get out from the office.

12:56 Interviewer: Means, you all were asked to leave the field?

12:58 A.: Yes. There was no work continued for that day after this incident.

13:01 Interviewer: So, what happened afterwards?

13:04 A.: Afterwards, the management called by their cell phone to "

13:13 Interviewer: His guardian was called, isn't it?

13:18 A.: Then it was dawn. We saw that the dead body was going out through the gate. After that we did not see the dead body. """"""""""""""""..

13:38 Interviewer: What else deadly experience do you have?

13:40 A.: A man died by a huge load in front of my eyes, I cannot forget this scenario from my mind.
13:48 Interviewer: So, did it upset you and hampers your work?

13:50 A.: Yes, we don't feel any interest to work. Now, we continue work due to our poverty and to manage food.

13:57 Interviewer: What is your native village?

13:59 A.: Dorihat District, Akkelpur Police Station, Khatail Nagar.

14:05 Interviewer: Okay, how long did you say you worked here?

14:09 A.: It would be around 8/10 years.

14:13 Interviewer: 8-10 years?

14:14 A.: Hmm.

14:15 Interviewer: Did you work in shipyards during this whole time?

14:16 A.: Yes. I worked for this shipyard for last 8-10 years.

14:21 Interviewer: To your knowledge, have you experienced many other dangerous incidents? 

14:23 A.: Yes, many dangerous incidents happened in front of me.

14:28 Interviewer: So, why do you work here after having experienced these incidents?

14:30 A.: Because we are poor people. We have to mange food to survive. We cannot do anything except this work. Now, we are obliged to do this work.

14:44 Interviewer: Is it possible for you to send some money to your home (village)?

14:46 A.: We send money every month, but very small amount, may be around 2,000 to 2,500 taka are being sent to home somehow. After spending for house rent, food and other costs, I used to send 2,000 taka to my home. It is very big amount for me.

15:05 Interviewer: The amount of salary you are paid, are you happy with it?

15:10 A.: No, we cannot manage anything with this salary. Even, a rickshaw puller can earn 400 to 500 taka per day, how can we manage with only 150 taka. Is it possible to run our family brother, no way.  Abroad, workers involved with this ship breaking work, can earn huge amount of money. And, here we work 12 hours for only 150 taka. Moreover, sometimes we do not get our salary on time. We are doing it just for managing food to survive.


Transcript #5:

Interview with Workers from Lucky Shipbreaking Yard, also known as "M&M Shipbreaking Yard"

July 15, 2009


NLC: How many" are they all from the same ship yard?
Translator:  They are from four shipyards"
Translator: Lucky—L-U-C-K-Y.   [and] Iron shipyard.  Kabir Steel.  K-A-B-I-R.   Shafi shipyard, S-H-A-F-I. "
NLC: So, they all work on the night shift?
Workers: [nod heads] yes"

Translator:  In the back is Shufi, front is Lucky.
NLC: Let's do Lucky first then.
NLC: So"Do they know the name of the ship they are working on now?
Workers:  [Not audible]
NLC: so, how many ships are they dismantling?  One, two, is it always one ship per yard?
Workers:  Three
NLC: three ships?
Workers:  Three ships at a time
NLC: And how many people work in Lucky?...
Translator [to workers]:  How many workers are there in total, day and night, cutters, helpers, everything
Workers:  [Discussion among themselves.] More than 1,000. Maybe 1200—all workers.
NLC: so that's a big yard. [Workers nod agreement.] How long does it take to dismantle a ship? Does it take a month and half or how long?
Workers:  6 months
NLC: 6 months for a big tanker? And that's working around the clock?
Workers:  6 months
NLC: So, when a ship is beached, and the electricity is cut off,  can they tell us, how do they go into the ship and start dismantling the ship?  So the ship is in complete darkness. What do they do first?  How do they go into the ship and start dismantling it?
Workers: Generators
NLC: so when they work at night, they have lights inside the ship?
Workers: At night, there is no work inside. 
NLC:  No work inside? "
Workers/Translator: Outside, on the ground. They work on the outside.
NLC:  So, they work on the outside?
Workers: yes
NLC: And as cutters, what are they doing?  Cutting up the pieces, into what size?
Workers: 8 feet by 10 feet.  "seven feet.
NLC: so it varies in size?
Workers:  Highest, Fifteen feet.  Fifteen - sixteen feet.
NLC: How wide?...
Translator:  They are explaining:  There is a truck that carries the load.  The truck has 15 feet length, so they cut to that size.
NLC:  But always 8 foot or"?
Workers:  4 foot by 5 feet.  Six feet.  Seven feet.  Maximum, 4 feet.
NLC: So that's what they do at night?  They cut the plates up? The plates are lying on the ground?  That's what they are cutting?
Workers:  Cut everything on the ground at night, into smaller pieces.
Worker talking:
Translator: he is giving an example. If they want to cut this [piece] in two parts.  Cut in half and then cut, in two pieces. 
NLC: So what do the helpers do? Do they knock out the rust out of the way, where the cutter is going to cut?
Workers/Translator: They carry the oxygen.  They carry on [their] shoulder.  [They gesture that the tank is large].
35:35 [becomes dark]
Workers/Translator:  The helper just switch off, switch on.  Keep the gas coming.  Cutterman, the cutterman hold the torch or flame.  He actually holds the flame.
NLC:  When the cutter is cutting, is it very hot?  Do the flames and the fumes of the metal, does it bounce back off onto them?  Are they breathing fumes and is it very hot?
Workers/Translator:  Their eyes are watering.  Burns their eyes.  They inhale these smells and gas enters the nose". Headache and vomiting.  Headache, nausea, fainting. 
[Various workers talking all together. ]
NLC:  Is it from the fumes?
Worker:  Two days back, the same thing happened.
NLC: is he inside or outside the ship?
Workers/Translator: outside
Workers/Translator:  He says fumes go into the nose, gets dizzy.   He has to go for fresh air, a few yards away.
NLC:  and what are the fumes?  Fumes coming out of the metal being cut?  Fumes are coming out of the metal?
Workers/Translator:  They come from the metal.  And sometimes there is paint on the iron.  Not only metal, there is also paint, burning.
NLC: So there's often paint" that would be lead paint" so they are cutting through the paint?
Workers/Translator:  Yes.  Yes.  It stinks, yeah? Filthy.  Sometimes they cannot bear the"
NLC:   So this is a big yard, Lucky, this is a very big yard.  Do they give them helmets and metal-tipped boots?  Do they give them goggles and gloves and the whole works?
Workers/Translator:  No.  Only gloves.  The management only provides gloves to the cutterman, not the helper.  And they don't provide the helpers with boots or googles.  Gloves, only cutter.
NLC:  So what do they use for goggles? Are they buying goggles?
Workers/Translator:   Sun glasses.  They buy sunglasses.
NLC:  They don't have aprons?
Workers/Translator:  No. No.  Only some shirts.  they buy gum boots".rubber boots
NLC: Don't their feet sweat inside those boots?
Workers/Translator:  Yes, and sometimes there is itching, sweating.
NLC:  Do they use socks
Workers/Translator:  They don't use socks, they actually cut the pants and just use them those.
Translator to workers:  No socks.
Workers:  Zhute.  Pieces of zhute.
NLC:  Are socks just too expensive?
Workers:  The gumboots are big, big.
Workers/translator:  Sometimes the flames go inside, through the boot.
Translator:  Not jute they mean "zhute".  "Zhute means garments—reject products.
NLC:  So, it could be a piece of pants or it could be a shirt.
 [Workers nod their heads] the boots are pretty big then?
Workers:  Yes.
NLC:  but they're also big sizes?  Are the boots like size ten or twelve?
Workers/Translator: bigger than their foot.
NLC:  Do they get infections from the constant sweating in the boots?
Workers/Translator:  It's so hot.  They say that sometimes they take it off.  And get like fresh air
sometimes.  But their legs, their feet get hot.
NLC:  And they work 12 hours every night?  How many hours do they work?
Workers/Translator:  Eight to 8.  Regularly.  But sometimes more hours.
NLC:  When was the last time they worked longer?
Workers/Translator:  Mostly about about 12 hours.
NLC: twelve hours.  And do they work five days and six days a week?
Workers/Translator: They work Fridays, because if they take, they don't get paid
NLC: so how many days off a month do they take? 
Workers/Translator: Three days.  Average 3 days.
NLC:  At most 3 days?  Average 3 days or at most 3 days.
Workers/Translator: Average 3 days but [if they get] sick, more days.
NLC:  They don't get paid sick days either.
Workers/Translator: Three days minimum.  Three days they don't work in a month.
NLC: Three days?  Three days minimum or maximum.
Workers/Translator:  minimum.
NLC:  So sometimes they take more days?
Workers/Translator:  Minimum 3,  maximum 4 days.  Sometimes they are sick.  Sometimes they say prayers on Fridays.  Sometimes they have some relative come.  So sometimes they don't work three Fridays, and maximum 4 days. 
NLC:  And what do the cutters earn in a month?
Workers/Translator:  One hundred sixty, seventy. 
NLC:  Around 170 for the senior operator"?
Workers/Translator:  umm"160 [$2.33] or 170 [$2.47] for 8 hours.  But they work 12 hours, then they get accordingly, proportionally.  [$2.33 to $2.47 per 8 hour shift = 29 to 31 cents an hour]
NLC:  They don't get paid overtime premium or do they?
Workers/Translator:  Actually, for 8 hours they only get 160 or 170.  For hours overtime they get paid regular, not double.  Sometimes they work 8 hours, 10 hours, 12 hours.
NLC: How often do they work the 12 hour shift, is that very rare?
Workers/Translator:   No. No. "They say if they work seven hours, then they'll not get 170, they will divide by eight and they will calculate per hour. If they work seven hours then they will not get 170, they will get less pay. Then they'll 170 divide 8 and multiply by the number of hours.
NLC: how often do they work 12, is it very rare?  The 12 hour shift.
Workers/Translator: He's saying, in a month 16 to 18 days, we work 12 hours.  
NLC:  When do they take a supper break, their breaks?
Workers/Translator:  Before they join work at 8:00 they take supper.  But there is a break at 10 and they take some tea or snacks.
NLC: Is that their only break in the night?
Workers/Translator:  And also at 2 a.m. early morning. 
NLC:  Biscuit?  Tea?
Workers/Translator: biscuit and tea, yeah.  Not for the day workers, only for night workers.
NLC:  So the company pays for the tea and biscuit.
Workers/Translator: Yes.  The company provides.
NLC: is it a half an hour break?  How long is the break?
Workers/Translator:  Half an hour, 30 minutes.
NLC: how about at 10 o'clock, how long is that break?
Workers/Translator:  Half an hour, But they have to pay for tea or coffee or biscuits.
NLC: how long do the gloves last that the company gives them?
Workers/Translator: Ten days
NLC: then they give them new ones?
Workers/Translator: Yes, every ten days.
NLC: every ten days"
Workers/Translator: yes, four times a month.  They are not high quality.
NLC:  and what do they use for" do they wrap bandanas around their face?  How do they block the fumes?
Workers/Translator: no, no medicine
NLC: but do they use bandanas?
Workers/Translator: no, they use nothing.  No, nothing.  They don't use anything on the face.
NLC:  they don't use bandanas" to block"
Workers/Translator: No.  Only gloves.
NLC: But they wear glasses right?
Workers/Translator:  They buy the sunglasses.
NLC: They wear glasses.  Do they wear hats so sparks don't get in their hair?
Workers/Translator:   Cap.  [a worker shows baseball cap.] they buy these caps.
NLC:  and do they wear a handkerchief or a bandana around their faces to stop the fumes?
Workers/Translator:  No
NLC:  So, they don't use anything.
Workers/Translator: mask, yes a mask.  They don't use anything, like any mask or"
NLC:  Just sunglasses and a baseball cap?
Workers:  Yes.
NLC:  Just a few more questions about Lucky"
Translator:  These (pointing to workers in front of camera) are Lucky.
NLC:  At Lucky, how many kids work at Lucky?  You know, young people.  Anybody working there that's ten, eleven,  twelve,  thirteen?
Workers:  He is sixteen.  [Points to worker in orange shirt.]   
NLC:  When did he start?
Workers: 5 months. 
NLC: how many kids?  Are there 12-year olds working there?
Workers:  10 to 20
NLC: an how old are they? Are you talking about 12 year-olds, 13 year-olds?
Workers:  10, 12 years.
NLC:  And they only work on the day shift, or they work at night too?
Workers:  Both day and night shift".
[Young worker in orange shirt speaks with translator]
NLC:  What's his job?  He works at night too?
Workers/Translator:  He carries bottles.  He cleans the metal.
NLC:  Does he work seven days a week or does he take time off  too?
Young workers/Translator:  In June, he works only 6 days, 4 days off.   Plus he's saying he is sick. ". In July he worked eleven days because he was sick.
NLC: Have there been any injuries at the ship yard lately?  "Not only him, everybody.  Has there been any injuries at the ship yard lately, at lucky?
Workers/Translator:  He is saying it is common.
Worker shows his toes.
Workers/Translator: "fall down, on his toes.
NLC:  Does he work barefoot?  Without shoes?
Workers/Translator:  He does wear, but it doesn't work.
NLC: the boots?  Okay.
NLC:  Have there been any serious injuries in Lucky. Not just with him.  Anybody.  At Lucky
end of tape

Transcript #6

Meeting with Workers from the Bhatiary Steel Shipbreaking Yard

February 14, 2009

Meeting begins

Translator: I am telling them that what the, working conditions, how they feel, they should be honest with us.  We'll learn and then we'll come again to work with them on these issues so there is a solution. 

NLC: We thank people for meeting with us.  We're from New York City in the United States, and we're here to ask questions so we can try to help.  So that's why we're asking questions.  We might have the ability to put pressure on some of the big shipping companies to improve conditions for the workers.  And for years we've worked closely with the National Garment Workers Federation and so that's how we know Bangladesh.

So, they work as ship breakers?  On the inside or outside of the ships?

Workers:  Shipbreakers.  Cutting. Cutting.  Both inside and outside.

NLC: And what's it like inside? We'll talk about the inside first.

Older man, back of group:  The main problem when we work inside there are, some wheels, oil, oil barrels, chemicals, gas.  This creates problems.

NLC: breathing and burns?

Worker (directly, not through translator):  Gas gas, very problem "

Man in checkered shirt: Gas goes in the nose. Explosion.  And people die from these things.

NLC: and I mean, when did that happen? Was there an explosion a year ago?   

Man in checkered shirt: one month ago

NLC: and what happened? There was an explosion inside the ship?

Man beside guy in checkered shirt:  Some weight fell on the body, on the head.  Some wrought iron on the head.

NLC: was the person hurt?

Workers: dead.  Spot dead.  [Died on the spot.]

NLC: this was about a month ago?

Workers: one month ago.

NLC: what ship was it?

Man in corner: Rasa Quasem. Q-U-A-S-E-M

NLC: That's the owner? The owner's name?

Translator:  Yes

NLC: Did they know the name of the ship?

Man in checkered shirt: The accident is very common.

NLC:  So this is the shipyard?

Translator: This is the owner of the shipyard

NLC:  So that shipyard would be in this town?

Checkered shirt guy:  Five or six kilometers away

NLC: so when they're inside the ship, they're breathing in gas fumes? 

Worker:  Very [serious] problem

NLC: and there's very little ventilation inside the ship, I guess?

Worker: The owner does not take care of the health or safety of the workers.

NLC: He doesn't care?  They don't care.

NLC:  And inside the ship there's not much ventilation? No air coming through?

Workers:  Yes. There is no way for air to enter"yeah. The ship houses have air conditioning, but when they sold for breaking, they disconnect the air conditioning so there is nothing for air to go in and pass.

NLC: Is it very very hot? I mean, way hotter than outside?

Worker:  Hot. Sweating, and very hot.

NLC:  So they are sweating constantly?

NLC:  Is it hotter outside than it is in the sun?

Worker:  Outside is cooler.  Inside is hotter because there is no air.

NLC:   Do they have to wear heavy clothing because they're welding and cutting the metal?  So on top of it being hot, are they wearing like, two layers of shirts, hat, mask?

Worker:  (Murmuring no)"The company doesn't give any uniforms.

NLC:  no gloves, no mask?

Workers: No.  No mask

NLC:  And what about boots?  Do they give them boots?

Worker: Workers have to buy [them].

NLC: The boots, are they hard toed? Rubber boots?

Translator:  They are saying, when the ship comes, in the ship, they are to buy from the owner.  They are mandatory, the owner to bought the ship, he sells to them.

NLC:  There are boots inside the ship that he sells back to the workers?

Workers: They are soft and hard.

NLC: And who works inside? Does anybody work inside as a cutter?

(Worker indicates that he is a cutter)

NLC:  What's it like, do they use a blow-torch to cut the"?

Worker:  Cutting torch.  "LP oxygen.

NLC:  A torch?

Worker:  LPR oxygen.  LPR oxygen and through a cutting torch.

NLC:  It's oxygen, but it's a blow torch?  Which has a flame?

(Workers nod heads)

Worker:  Two lines.  The cutting one in and the pure oxygen that, the torch flames.

NLC: LPR oxygen?

Workers Together:  (nod heads) LPR oxygen.  Oxygen.

Translator:  Pure oxygen with the burning flame.  LPR.

Workers:  Liquefied gas.

NLC:  And so how do they cut it? How do they control where the metal is going to fall, when they are cutting like that?

Worker/translator: Sometimes they catch it and cut it.  Sometimes they cannot control it.

NLC:  And it just falls.

NLC: and when their cutting like that, are there fumes that they are breathing in or is it just the heat?

Workers: Both the heat and flame.  It has a smell.

NLC: and do they wear masks?

Worker: No

NLC: do they wrap bandanas around?

Worker/translator:  Yes.  Yes.  They have some scarves.

NLC: And they have gloves?

Worker: Yes

NLC: Do they ever get burnt, with the sparks?

Worker: Yes (One worker displays various scars)

NLC:  They must wear goggles?

Translator:  They have bought goggles.

NLC: and how many hours do they work, cutting like that?

Worker: 7 in the morning 'til 7:00.

NLC: Seven a.m. until 7:00 p.m.?

Worker: Yes, 7:00 to 7:00 is regular.  But sometimes 8, 9, 10.

NLC:  And is there a night shift or it just one shift?

Worker:  Two shifts, it never stops.

NLC: It never stops, it goes 24 hours a day, it never stops.

NLC:   So the regular shift is from 7:00 in the morning to 7:00 o'clock at night, but sometimes they'll work to 8:00, 9:00, or 10:00?

Workers: Yes, when there heavy work pressure"

NLC:  When was the last time they worked until 9:00 or 10:00 o'clock?

Worker:  Four days back.

NLC:  Are they saying that there's someone who works at night from 7:00 at night to 7:00 in the morning?

Translator:  No not that" of course they also work till nine. 

NLC:  It never stops.

NLC: Ok, so in other words, like, how many times would they work until 10 o'clock in a month or a week? Like would it happen twice a week?

Worker: Five days.

NLC:  Five days until 10"to 9:00.

Translator: five days until 9:00.

NLC:  A week

NLC:  And how many days a week do they work?

Worker: 7 days

NLC:  And when was the last time they had a day off?

Worker: Last Friday, 5 hours

NLC: Friday's five hours

Worker:  Seven to 12:00

NLC: and so they don't take any days off during the month?

Workers/Translator: Last month there were 30 days".  They worked 31 days in December,  January 31 days. February, nonstop, 28 days.  They will work 28 days in February. 

Worker: 14th of February

Translator: (laughing).  Good, you know the date.

NLC:  And what is their salary?

Worker: The work we do in return, we do not get paid.  Fifteen an hour, 15 taka. 

NLC:  Fifteen taka [22 cents] an hour.

NLC:  And overtime, it's 30 taka [44 cents] an hour?

Worker: Same. Overtime is same.

NLC: Overtime is same.

Translator:  Only 15 taka.

NLC:  So if they work 10 hours they only getting 150 taka [$2.18]?

(Workers nod heads)

Translators:  For working 10 hours, they get 150 taka. 

NLC: And do they get Eid and other vacation holidays?

(Workers nod heads)
Workers/Translator: Without pay.  No pay.  No bonus. No leave, no pay.  In addition to that, they cut our salary.  They never give us leave.  The money, they keep in their hands so they are bonded.  They have to come, to get that money.  That is to make sure that they will work.

NLC: they hold back a week's wages?

Worker:  One weeks' pay

NLC:  And what shipyard do they work in, what's the name?

Workers:  Bhatiary Steel.

NLC:  They have several ships they are working on or just one ship?

Worker: Many, many.

Translator: They are working on one, and other is coming"  Next" February 26 or 27 another one is coming

NLC:  How many workers are on a ship?

Worker:  Four hundred on a ship.

NLC:  So, about 400 workers dismantle one ship...that's the day shift and the night shift?

Worker: Only in day.

Translator:  They are saying, now in the market the cost of raw iron has gone down because the new political government has taken [over].   Now, since the price of the unit cost has gone down, they are not working at night.  But just two months back they worked at night.  There are now 400 workers.

NLC:  And do they get any kind of health care or medical care?

Translator: They are saying, if they are sick, the company only give them medicine, but if workers cannot work, they will not get sick leave.  No sick leave.  No sick leave.

NLC: So if they don't feel well, they just have to take the day off and get no pay?

Workers:  No work, no pay".  [Workers discuss and gesture among themselves.]

NLC:  What happened?

Translator:  Some raw iron fall down on his" he cannot be stand now.  He has to bend like"  He cannot upright his body.

NLC: What did they do?  What's happening? Did they put him to a hospital or anything?

Worker:  No

NLC: and when did this happen?

Worker: Four days back

Translator:  Hurt his back.

Translator: So, he cannot go to work and no pay

NLC: Even though he was injured inside the ship or outside?

Worker: Outside the ship

NLC:  And what, a chunk of metal fell on his back?

Worker:  He was carrying [it] on his shoulder.  It slipped down.  [He] got hurt here.  Like this.  Waist?... [He indicates his lower back.]

Workers/translator: There were four or five men was carrying that.  The four, they left [got out].   "They are saying four workers were carrying. It was so heavy, they cannot bear.  The four left and all the weight fall down on [him] "

Translator:  The four people left because they could not bear it.

NLC: And the company doesn't do anything for him?

Workers: No, nothing.

Single worker: (speaking independently) No one

NLC:  (regarding injured worker) how old is he?

Worker: 32, yes.

Translator:  he is from a district in Vanderoon "the Hill Area?

NLC: How many years has he been working?

Translator: He is a newcomer.  He work nine days.  After working five days, he got hurt.

NLC: And are there any young" are there any kids working in the shipyard?

Workers: (nodding heads)

Translator:   Twelve years.  Helper. They are saying, the child workers are working helpers [to those] who cut **.  They just supply things.

NLC: they just supply the"

NLC: and how old are they? Like 14, 15 or younger"

Workers: 11, 12, 13.  12, 13.

NLC:  And how many, about?

Workers: 10, 15.

NLC:  And the company gives them housing? They give them free"

Workers:   [Those] who are cutters, they have to arrange [their] house independently.   But [those] who carry weight, like him, the company has some housing on the inside. In the dock yard.

NLC: So this would be a company room?

Workers: Not a company room. Rented.  500 taka for rent.

NLC: And how many people live here?

Workers:  Four workers

NLC: Four workers live here.

NLC:  And when it rains, does it leak through the roof?

Workers:  Tin on top

NLC: They have tin up top

NLC: So this is" four workers, this is their whole house here?

Workers/Translator: (Pointing to a small stove)  They cook here

NLC: What's their basic diet? What do they eat?

Workers: Aloo. Potato. 

NLC:  Mashed potatoes?

Workers:  Vegetables.  Rice is common

Translator (asking workers): daal?

Workers: sometimes.  Lentils twice a week.

NLC:  So, they don't eat meat or fish?

Workers: Meat, twice or once a month.  Maximum once"

Workers/Translator: They say mutton is very expensive.  Beef is cheaper.  They eat beef once a month.   Some, every four or five months.  He's saying one kilogram [2.2 lbs] of mutton is 300, 350 taka [$4.36, $5.09], so how can they buy"300"? [laughing]

Workers:  No money"[Laughing]

NLC: How long do people last as ship breakers?  Do people tend to leave after 5 years, or can they stay 10 years?

Worker/Translator: He has been working here for 20 years.

NLC: And has it gotten better over those 20 years?

Worker:  Same.  Same.  No salary increase.  No improvement. No overtime pay. 

NLC:  No wage increase.  No overtime pay?

Translator:   They say, inside the work 8 hours. Outside"overtime is mostly done outside because" Because of the risk of accidents inside.  

NLC: and when they're".do they ever deal with like asbestos? Like on the pipes, the pipes will have insulation around the pipes and it's often like a hard white material.

Translator: Yes, they are familiar with asbestos.  It is attached to it, to the pipe inside.  Inside the wall.  Inside the boiler  They notice asbestos.  Inside the chimney".you know "chimney"?

NLC: And do they have to dismantle that asbestos as well?

Translator: They must wash, clean the asbestos, and then they cut it.

NLC: They clean it? They wash it with water?

Translator: With a hammer.

NLC:  So they wet it first"and then they hit it with a hammer? To break it or"

Translator: To clean it.

NLC: does dust come up when they do that?

Workers: Yes! Yes!  Small pieces"dust comes up.  Chips.

NLC: Have people told them that the asbestos is dangerous?

Workers/ Translator:  Many people have died from this gas burst.

NLC: what?  From the gas fumes or"

Workers/ Translator: When they cut the tank, its a big tank and it is very tight [sealed] tank.  When they cut then gas comes out.  When it comes out it becomes sound.   It's a very noisy sound and is a very dangerous element in the tank. When they cut it, when they leak it, then the sound comes, poisonous elements, liquid gas comes out and workers die.

NLC:   Has that happened to anybody when they're working? Do they feel dizzy when the gas comes out?

Translator: He witnessed this.

NLC: So the worker's get dizzy?

Workers: Burning, so burning.  They're eyes burning.  Dizziness and vomiting" 

Translator: They're saying, when they cough, this comes from, through coughs.   "the pieces, the gas comes through their coughs.    

NLC: and so inside the ship, how hot would it be? Can they estimate?

Workers: Very very hot. The temperature now, it's more than twice this"

NLC: Like, is it this temperature, or is it hotter? 

Workers:  When we cut, our eyes burn, very hot, sweating, it seems, it's like hell.

Worker/Translator:  Dark"When they cut with the flame, only they see this. Otherwise it's dark. When they cut, there's a flame. Only we see the flame. Otherwise we can't see anything. It's quite dark.

NLC: So it makes it even more dangerous, if it's pitch dark like that.

(Workers nod in agreement)

NLC: So there's not a lot of lights inside the ship?

Workers: No because on the inside, because they disconnected all the electricity.

NLC:  So there's not light inside the ship?

Worker: When they" actually comes in and is anchored, they cut all this electrification.

NLC: So do they use candles or flashlights? How do you get around?

Translator: They take a flame with them.

NLC:  And that's it?"In other words they don't have a flashlight.

Translator: That flame"that means the cutting flame.

NLC: Yeah they just have it on a little bit, so the cutting flame is their only light?

Workers: Nothing else.

NLC: So no flashlight"it must be very dangerous walking in the ship like that.

Workers:  Very very dangerous.

Worker:  I work in the ship.  I know how dangerous it is.

NLC: It could be all wet or greasy you could fall on the stairs, right?

Workers: First cutting apart then gradually going.

NLC: And how long does it take to cut through? Say they are going to cut out like"do they cut out rectangles"say like four foot by like twelve foot, how long does it take to make that cut?

Workers: Fifteen feet.  One day.  It takes one day"15 feet by 4 feet.

NLC: 15 feet?

NLC:  So to cut it out, 15 feet by 4 feet, to cut the whole thing out takes a whole day"

Translator: It depends on the thickness. They are saying 4 hours, 3 hours, 8 hours" There's some complexity in the system so it depends on the shape, size, and thickness of the metal.

NLC: And it's one person doing it or several?

Worker:  There's a helper.  The cutters have helpers.

NLC: And when they're doing this, they're actually doing it in the pitch dark except for the flame?  I mean, they're in the pitch dark with the flame, cutting it?

Worker/Translator:  Another problem.  Sometimes they need to close or force off the flame" Sometimes the flame is on, they need to turn it off.  So whenever their cutting mission [is done], they are to turn it off with their mouth.  He is showing.  "The volume of the flame.  Volume is increasing or decreasing.

NLC: These"are they attached to big tubes of oxygen or gas?

Worker: Two tubes. A red tube and white tube"black tube. Red means LP and black is oxygen.

NLC: Red, and what's the oxygen?

Translator:  LP means liquid gas and black is oxygen gas.

Translator:  Maybe"I will film it" how is black"the two LP.  He wants us to come at 10:00, and then they show physically" how to fill oxygen, LP, how to cut, and we can have a snap [photo].

NLC:  When is this?

Translator:  They say tomorrow.

NLC: And so when they're cutting like that, are there fumes coming out of the metal?

Workers/Translator: When they spit, it's like black colored spit. When they cough, it's black.  It's color is black.

NLC: And in the ship, is it common for like oil or gas to just go into the ocean or do they collect all that?

Worker:  Some rubbish things it goes into the water.  Chemical. Waters become contaminated with mixing all these chemicals.

NLC: So they have gas going into the water and oil. And when they go into the ship, we went by one of the ships today, it seemed as if they were taking people up to the top of the ship.  They would put one foot in a bucket and they were pulling the rope up.

Workers/Translator:  They did it sometimes.  So this is lifting.  "Outside

NLC: And in the inside of the ship they work 8 hours? From when to when?

Worker: 8:00 to 5:00.

NLC:  And they get an hour for lunch?

Worker: Yes, one hour rest.  One hour break.

Translator:  They work 9 hours, 9:00 to 5:00 but they paid only 8 hours.

NLC: You said 9:00 to 5:00?

NLC: He said 8:00 to 5:00 before, no?

Worker: Sometimes 7:00. Sometimes 8:00.   Now, this time, this month, from 7:00 to 5:00.  But they pay only 9 hours.

NLC:  And before, when the metal was at a higher cost, did they work more hours inside?

Worker:  Ten.  To 10:00 at night.  "Then they had the night shift.  24 hours.

NLC:  They had a night shift" So just like two months ago when the price was high, they'd be working 13 hours"15 hours. And when they worked from 7:00 o'clock until 10:00 o'clock at night, did they also get a supper break or a lunch break?

Workers: For 20 minutes.  5:00 to 5:20.

NLC: they get what?

Translator:  Break. 5:00 to 5:20 in the afternoon.

NLC: 5 to 5:20"that's all?

Translator:  But they don't give any refreshment.  No tea"no biscuit"no tea.  They do not get any food.

NLC: And they have to bring their own lunch then?

(workers nod)

NLC: And what does a cutter earn? More than 15 taka?

Workers: 15 taka [22 cents] maximum.

NLC: 15 Taka?

Worker/Translator: Now recently, they have increased to 20 taka [29 cents].

NLC: When did they increase it?

Workers: After the new government come. That means one month.  One month ago.    100 for helpers"110, 120.   "One hundred to 120 maximum. [$1.45, $1.60, $1.74 a day, eight hours] 

NLC: But it's against the law that they don't their Eid bonus.

Workers:  No Eid bonus.

NLC: By law, they should be getting overtime pay. By law.

Workers:  No.  No overtime pay.

NLC: And what would happen if they asked the boss 'how come we're not getting our overtime, it's the law'.

Workers:  "Out.  Out" "The gate is open, go".  "Get out." [Laugher]

Workers all saying: "get out"

NLC: especially if they work on a Friday, on the weekend, they should be getting double-time, right?

Rafiq: 7:00 to 5:00"five hours. Five hours.  Seven until 12:00, but they don't get overtime according to law.

NLC: And have they received any help from anybody? Has anybody struggled on their behalf?

Workers:  Nobody help us.  We are alone.  Nobody help us.

Worker: "No help" "

NLC: It's a very hard life.  They're working seven days a week for such low wages and such dangerous conditions.

WorkersTranslator:  They are very poorly paid.  Because we have to do it to survive.  To fill our stomachs.  And then they have to die.   "He's saying we're eating vegetables because we cannot afford it.    He's saying, he doesn't remember when he last eat beef or mutton.

Worker/Translator: He's saying that during the [kurba?] —that means Sacraficial Eid, you know?  Some rich man gave him.  This is the time he [last] ate beef.  "We're saying, we are laughing, but it is our sorrow, it is to relieve our sorrow.
They are saying that they are from another part of Bangladesh"they have their  families there.  They have to give money to their families so they can survive. So how can we have money for beef? 

NLC: How much can they send home to their families each month?

Worker: 700"800"  [$10.17"$11.63]

NLC: 700, 800 a month.

NLC: $10"

NLC: And so, they can't spend any money on themselves.

Worker:  Hardly can we buy some medicine, very urgent we spend money.  For buying medicine" very urgently.  Basically, like [for] having a shirt, pants.  

Translator:  I'm asking if they go to cinema or movie theater.  No, never go.

NLC: So they never go to a movie theater?

Worker: Nooo"

NLC: They never go out to eat".they never go out to a restaurant to eat.

Worker:  Nooo"  Even we cannot go out on Fridays.  

NLC: So they don't really do anything to relax or have fun?   

Workers:  Then we cannot send 700 taka to our families. 

NLC:  So if they got a few hours on a Friday night, what do they like to do just to relax?

Workers:  Sleep.  Sleep.  Sleep, or just move around. To rest. Sometimes we discuss [it] ourselves. This is our life.

NLC: And the Ministry of Labor doesn't help them either? Do they ever come here?

Worker/Translators: He's complaining that during the caretaker government, the prices of essential commodities were so high, almost"  That time was very very critical for them.  We bought 1 kilogram of rice at the cost of 40 taka [58 cents]" Sometimes people didn't have enough food to eat. Only they have puffed rice. During that time they could not have a full stomach.  Half-fed actually.  They are half fed".

Worker/Translator:  He's saying, they are very happy.  They feel so thrilled that you came here to learn their stories.  It is thrilling for them.

NLC: well everybody has a right to be treated like a human being. And the big companies that own those ships have to take more responsibility for the workers.

Worker/Translator:  They are also afraid, they are also apprehensive that the local owner can—if they know that we are speaking the truth, they could harass them.  It is very risky. 

NLC: They have to be careful of course. They have to be very careful.

Transcript #7:

Meeting with shipbreaking workers of the Pupali Enterprise and GD Subadar Shipyards

February 2009

NLC:  We should talk with the workers of one shipyard at a time, so it doesn't get confusing..  Let's start with Pupali Enterprise.  So there is only one shift, during the day now?

Workers:  8:00 to 8:00.  Day shift.  8:00 to 5:00, regular.  5:00 to 8:00 overtime.

NLC:  And is there light at 8:00 o'clock when they are working?

Workers:  We work sometimes until 11 at night.

NLC:  How can they work in the dark?

Workers:  [Indicating a light in the room]  This type of light.

NLC:  So they have big florescent lights.  Are they out on the beach, or on the ship?

Workers:  Outside"  open place.

NLC:  They work from 8:00 to 5:00 and what time is lunch.

Workers:  1:00 to 2:00"  one hour

NLC:  And when they work until 8:00 pm, when do they have supper?

Workers:  If we work until 10:00 we are given 30 taka [44 cents U.S.] food allowance.

NLC:  Are they fed during that time?  Do they eat at 8:00 o'clock at night or what?

Workers:  We eat at 10.  We take supper at 10 at night.

NLC:  Do they work 6 days a week or 7?

Workers.  No work.  No pay.  [If] we get  the day off, we don't get paid.

NLC:  How many days do they work?

Workers:  26 days.  26 or 27 days a month.  We work on a daily basis".26 days, 27 days, there is no hard and fast rule.

NLC:  It depends on how much work there is?

Workers/translator:  It's hard labor.  They put in hard labor, so sometimes they need to take the day off.

NLC:  So how often would they work until 10 o'clock in a month.

Workers:  Three or 4 days.  "Regularly until 8:00 pm.

NLC:  What do they get paid?

Workers:  300 taka [$4.36]"300,  300,  200 [$2.91], 200, 200, 200, 200"  cutter, cutter, welder"

NLC:  The skilled cutters, they get 300" [$4.36 a day, 8 hours]

Translator:  Some get 300, some 200 [$2.91].

NLC:  And the ones that get 200 they are"

Translator:  Junior

NLC:  Junior workers?

Workers:  Less than 12"

NLC:  And is that for the eight hours?

Workers:  Eight hours.

NLC:  Do they pay overtime?

Workers:  Regular.. regular  [not double time]

NLC:  They said they work is very hard.  What do they do?

Workers:  We cut the rods or iron with the flame"[?] are helping us.  The fumes go [in]to our nose and mouth.  And there is heat from the fire.  It is an open place, not in the shade.

NLC:  So they are not working on the ship, maybe they are only working on pieces of the ship.  Is that it?

Translator:  Yes.   Outside.

NLC:  Are there people who work inside the ship?  What I am getting at is that this might be a whole different operation where the ship is dismantled and then brought to another yard, where they break the stuff apart.

Workers:  We don't work on the inside.

NLC:  Do they work right next to the ship?

Workers:  Close to where the ship is" "100 yards away.

NLC:  Is it the same company that is dismantling the ship?  The same company they work for?

Workers:  Same owner.  Same shipyard.

NLC:  So there are people who work inside.  They are just not here?

Worker:  I work inside..inside.

NLC: What does he do inside.

Worker:  I have cut eight ships inside.  I have had the experience of cutting inside eight ships.

NLC:  But he is still only earning 200 taka.

Worker:  300 taka

NLC:  Inside the ship, what does he exactly do as a cutter?

Worker: All the material inside the ship is iron.  So first we mark and then part by part we cut the iron.  Part by part, it falls on the ground or in the water.  And then some other workers bring the parts to land.

NLC:  When they are cutting, how do they know it is going to fall out-the-way and not fall in on them? "

Worker:  We will work until 11:00 today.  When we work until 11:00.

NLC:  So they got a tea break for an hour..  So"how do they know it is not going to fall in-the-way.

Workers:  Wire.  Wire.  Suppose this is the ship and we have to dismantle this part.  We have big, very thick wire, and big ropes and a system to bind.   We will be cutting, and other workers will pull.

NLC:  They drill holes in the wall" and is it rope or cable?

Translator:  They call it "wire".

NLC:  And, they cut the pieces like 4-foot by 15-foot?

Worker:  Twenty feet by 20 feet.  20-feet by 20 feet is the biggest we cut.

NLC:  And when they are cutting, is there light inside the ship or is it darkness?

Workers:  In the dark.  It is dark inside"  All of the electrical system is cut, so there is no light inside.

NLC:  So how do they move around?

Various Workers:  Though it is dark, but sometimes we make a door for light.  We try to make a window, a small window, by cutting, so natural light comes in, not full light, but at least you can see something.

NLC:  And inside the ship it must be very hot?—or is it cool?

Workers:  Hot!  Very hot.  We are sweating.  Everyone gets soaked.

NLC:  And do they give them special glovers and masks? 

Workers:  Helmet.  Gloves" The company gives them.

NLC:  Are there fumes from the heat and the cutting?

Workers:  Yes.  Yes.  [The workers gesture, showing how they try to cover their mouths and noses with a bandana.]

NLC:  They they don't have a real mask.

Workers/translator:  No.  This type of scarf.  It is a local traditional type of scarf.

NLC:  So that scarf is good enough to keep out the fumes and the dust?

Workers:  It is not enough.  Every time we breathe, the fumes go inside.

NLC:  Does their clothing get burned from sparks?

Workers:  Yes.  It is common.  [They show the burn holes in the shirts they are wearing.]

NLC:  And do they wear other shirts?...because it would burn right through to their skin.

Translator:  Inside is their base [layer]" another one inside.

NLC:  They are wearing two shirts, is that it?

Workers/Translator:  Yes, two shirts.  Like this man [show how one of the workers is wearing two shirts.]

NLC:  Has anyone in this shipyard been hurt, say within the last couple of months?

Workers:  Regularly.  "I was a cutter.  My helper died, six years ago.

NLC:  Why?

Worker:   He fell down from the top to the bottom.  Inside.  100 feet.  You saw some ropes.  He was climbing from the bottom.  He slipped and fell down dead.  Inside.

NLC:  So inside the ship, do they actually have to climb up on ropes to do the cutting?

Workers:  Inside sometimes, inside the ship there are ropes.

NLC:  So when they are cutting.  How do they climb up?  How do they get into a position to cut?

Worker:  It is called a floating stair. 

NLC:  Bamboo and rope?

Translator:  Yes.  Bamboo stairs.

NLC:  Bamboo and rope?

Translator:  Bamboo and rope.

NLC:  It must be difficult to be on the ladder and cutting at the same time.

Workers:  Risky.  Very risky.  [One worker shows how he holds the rope with one hand and cuts with the other.]

Translator:  He is showing you.  He is showing you how he cuts.

NLC:  Within the last two or three months, has anyone been injured on this job?

Workers:  No.  Not in this yard.  Maybe in another yard.  It is common.  There are maybe a hundred yards, so somewhere an accident may have taken place.

NLC:  Are they from Chittagong, or are they from elsewhere?

Workers:  From the north.  "Chittagong.  Chittagong.  North. 

Translator:  So two are from the north and the rest are local people.

NLC:  And the workers from the north, do they live in dormitories.

Workers:  Most of us are from north Bengal.  We live in a public house.

NLC:  Do a number of workers rent a single room or what?

Workers:  Yes.  Yes"  Depending on the people—four, five, six, eight.  If it is a big room even 20 people sleep on the floor.  We share.

NLC:  Do they ever come into contact with asbestos.  Insulation?  Do they know what it is?...

Translator:  They know there is asbestos inside.  That it is insulated.

NLC:  How do they dismantle that?

Workers:  It is attached to the plate.  I have to break the asbesdos.  Otherwise I cannot cut.

NLC:  So the asbesdos is attached to the plate. It is often up against the plate.

Translator:  It is attached to the plate.  They first cut or break the asbesdos.  Then they cut the plate.

NLC:  How do they break the asbesdos.

Workers:  With a hammer, and cut it into pieces.

NLC:  What do they do with the asbesdos.

Worker:  They company sometimes sells the pieces of asbesdos to another company.  They sell it.

NLC:  Does dust come out, with the hammer.

Worker:  Not too much.  We work with a scarf..  [He indicates how the workers use their scarves to cover their mouths and noses.]

NLC:  But when they are hammering it, does dust come out?

Worker:  It is itchy.  If it gets on the hand or skin it is itchy.

NLC:  But even with the mask on.  Does it work its way through and make the face itchy?

Workers:  Yes.  Sometimes it tickles.  There are small particles, and it is itchy.

NLC:  When they are dismantling the ship, do they drill holes to drain the oil and the gas into the ocean?

Worker:  yes..

NLC:  What goes out?  The gasoline and oil?

Worker:  Black oil.  An oil and water mixture.  It stinks.

NLC:  Does they company hold back any of their wages, like does it hold a weeks wages back.

Workers:  One weeks wages.

NLC:  Why.

Workers:  We are paid weekly.  We get paid every week.

NLC:  Why?  Why do they hold back a week's pay?

Workers:  To hold the workers.  To control the workers"  Some workers left the factory because of a grievance.

NLC:  So, they hold back one week's wages"and why do they do it?  To keep them in the shipyard?

Translator:  To keep them in the factory.

NLC:  The people from the North, when they first get their jobs do they actually borrow money ahead of time, so they actually owe the company money when they start working?

Workers:  An advance.  It is common.  Some brokers give an advance.

NLC:  So how much of an advance would they take?

Worker:  One thousand [taka] [$14.53], two thousand [$29.07], five thousand [$72.67].  It depends"   Sometimes it depends on how much the wage will be.

NLC:  Do they pay it off quickly?  Or do they keep having a debt?

Workers:  Gradually.  Slowly.

NLC:  Do they have to pay interest on it?

Workers:  No. No.  No interest.

NLC:  So how long does it take to pay it off?

Workers:  Three, four, five months to pay the loan"   [Discussion]

Translator:  They need  to go to work"

NLC:  How long will they work.

Workers:  Maybe until 8:00, 9:00 [p.m.].  We don't know.  They will give us full time on Friday.

NLC:  Are there any children who work in this shipyard?

Workers:  No.

NLC:  Is anybody helping them?

Workers:  No"

NLC (BB):  Did they say they would work all day on Friday?

Worker:  yes.  We will work on Friday.  Before a delivery we work on Friday.

NLC:  So they work an average of 26 or 27 days a month?

Workers:  20 days, 25, 26, 27

NLC:  So it is not really set?  Sometimes they have 10 days off because there is no work?

Workers:  Yes.  If no work, we get ten days off"but don't get paid.

NLC:  And Eid holiday?

Workers:  Yes.

NLC:  Do they get the bonus?

Workers:  [In English]   No work, no pay.  No work, no pay.

NLC:  So on average, how much do they work in a month?

Workers:  Six thousand [$87.21], 7000 [$101.74], 5000 [$72.67] a month.  It depends.  Four-to-eight thousand [$58.14 - $116.28].

NLC:  And as an example of their diet.  With their wages, are they often able to buy chicken and mutton?

Workers:  No.  Oh, no.  With this salary, it is not possible.  "maybe every two months, every two months.

NLC:  What?

Translator:  "they can get meat.

NLC:  So have things gotten better or are they pretty much the same over the years?  Is it much better now than it was 4 or 5 years ago?

Workers:  Same as before.  No change"

NLC:  So at this point, no one is helping them?

Workers:  No one.  Not government, union, Ministry of Labor, no.

NLC:   When you work overtime, you are supposed to get an overtime premium.

Workers:  No.  They don't give you.  If you work two hours, you get two hours.

NLC:  If they were to make any demands, what would the most important demands be?

Number 1:  8 hours duty.
Overtime double [pay].
Increased salary.
According to ILO"international standard
Company should look after our benefits our health"

NLC:  They don't have health care.

Workers:  No. Nothing.

NLC:  What would they need to earn.  Realistically.  To live decently?

Workers:  15,000 [$218.02].  10,000 [$145.35].  14,000 [$203.49].

NLC:  Is that with overtime, or just regular?

Workers:  Regular.  Without overtime.  We are doing hard labor.  We have to consume more food.  Rice.  We need to eat eggs, meat, fish.  There is no relation between the salary and our labor.

NLC:  What do they do for fun?  Do they go to the movies?

Workers:  We only do work, we only work.  Our life is for work.

Worker:    Also it should be a permanent job, with a contract.  We should have one day off a week, with pay.  We are not even permanent.  There is a dis-similarity between the wage and the labor.

NLC:  Do they have a contract?

Workers:  No.  One time use.  We work today, but tomorrow no.

NLC:  Does the Ministry of Labor help?

Workers:  No.

NLC:  It seems very unjust.

Worker/Translator:   "he is explaining about the port, the dock workers.  They can take leave.  They don't work 10 days, but they get paid.  We don't have any leave or vacation.

NLC:  That is one of the questions we were asking—why the dock workers don't help the ship-breakers.

Workers:  They did a lot of struggle to get that"  They haven't contacted or communicated with them.

NLC:  But maybe if they started to struggle the dock workers would help them?

Worker:  There is no unity among the workers.  Workers are isolated. 

NLC:  We are from the United States.  It is only the workers who are united in unions who make a decent wage, a decent living. 

Workers:  We don't have any hope.  If we are united, we can't meet.  [Translator comment:  He is hopeless.]

NLC:  How long have they worked here?

Workers:  Sixteen years;  9 years;  5 years;  5 years;  16 years.

NLC:  how long can you last in this kind of work?

Workers:  Fifteen-16 years.   I was very healthy, but"

NLC:  How long has he been working?

Worker:  16 years"he was 16 when he started.  " He is only 32 years old, but he seems to be 60"

Transcript #8:  Shipbreakers, July 16, 2009

07:30 NLC: How much are you paid?

07:38 Worker: 120 taka, 150 taka or 140 taka.

07:42 NLC: Everyday?

07:44 Worker: For 8 hours".

8:21 NLC: How long do you work?  From 7:00 am to 7:00 pm?

8:23 Worker: Yes, from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm, 8:00 pm, 9:00 pm etc, depends on work load. If there is work, then we work, otherwise, we are asked to leave.


12:19 NLC: How long do you work?

12:22 Worker 2: Eight hours, after 8 hours if we work, it is OT.

12:25 NLC: When did you come?

12:27 Worker 2: What?

12:29 NLC: When did you come today?

12:30 Worker 2: At 7:00 am.

12:33 NLC: How long do you have to work here?   ".What's going on?  I was talking with him.

12:43 Supervisor: He is working, why you are disturbing him? 40 taka is per hour.

12:46 NLC Collaborator : We will pay 40 taka. If you would have asked me,  I would pay 40 taka.

12:52 Supervisor: Without permission of the authorities, you cannot talk.

12:54 NLC Collaborator: I have the permission of the authorities, do you know who I am?

12:56 Supervisor: Whoever you are, doesn't matter. I have the order that I cannot allow outsider to talk without permission.

15:28 NLC: What work you do here?

15:29 Worker 3: Pull iron.

15:31 NLC: What's that mean?

15:33 Worker 3: These plates are cut and made into smaller pieces and we pull them. We work together 5, 6, 7, 8 people.

15:45 NLC: With machine or by hand?

15:46 Worker: By hand.

15:50 NLC: Do you work 6 hours daily?

15:52 Worker: I work for 12-14 hours per day.

15:59 NLC: How much you are paid?

16:01 Worker: Sometimes 300 taka [$4.36], sometime 200 [$2.91] and sometime 250 taka [$3.63] per day.

16:10 NLC: How much you get for 8 hour work?

16:12 Worker: We get 17 taka [25 cents U.S.] per hour.

16:20 NLC: 17 taka per hour?

16:21 Worker: Yes".I started work from 8:00 am today"

16:44 NLC: How long do you have to work?

16:46 Worker: Till at 7 - 8 pm, even 9 pm"

16:56 NLC:  You don't work the whole night?

16:58 Worker: Yes, the day of Friday, we have to work night shift. "

17:14 NLC: People die?

17:17 Worker: Yes, many people.

17:18 NLC: Have you witnessed such incidents?

17:21 Worker: Yes, it has happened while I was present there.

17:26 NLC: What kind?

17:27 Worker: Suppose, someone's is injured like part on his hand is cut.  Look here on my foot, a cut mark there. It has been happening regularly.

17:37 NLC: When there is a big accident, the company helps?

17:40 Worker: The worker dies if there is a big accident.

17:43 NLC: If worker die, what company does for him?

17:46 Worker: Company? In some cases, company contributes some and in some cases, the company sends workers to their homes.

17:50 NLC: How much does the company contribute?

17:52 Worker: 50, 60, 70, 20 thousands taka or 30,000 taka [$726.74, $872.09, $1,017.44, $291 or $436]; there is no fix amount. Understand?

18:06 NLC: When workers are injured, workers have to buy medicines, they cannot work for 3/4 days, does the company give money to the workers?

18:13 Worker: No. Workers have to bear their full expenditure.  [Another worker adds:  If the workers are injured at the work place, then the company bears the cost, but for fever, cold or other diseases at home, this is borne by the workers themselves.]

# # # # #

[Child worker who quit the shipbreaking yards a year ago]

NLC:  How long ago [did you quit]?

3:00 Former child worker: One year ago.

3:03 NLC: You are not old enough to work.

3:05 Former child worker: What?

3:06 NLC: You are under aged.

3:08 Former child worker: Yes, it's true. I did with great hardship. As I could not tolerate it, I left that work".  The cutter men cut the iron and the labors carry the iron on their shoulders and load it into the trucks".

The cutter men cut the iron using the torch and fix it with a winch machine, then pull it and the iron goes down.

4:09 NLC: How are these heavy steel sheets moved from that place?

4:11 Former child worker:  Its fixed with winch and workers pull with a rope. These are cut into small pieces and the labors carry them on their shoulder.

4:24 NLC: These are carried on their shoulder? These heavy pieces of iron?

4:25 Former child worker: Yes"

5:33 NLC: What do you think?  Is the work bad or good?

5:38 Former child worker: Whether it is bad or good, we have to do it.  Because, we have to eat. 

5:49 NLC: Is the work very hard.  What do you think [since] you did this job?

5:51 Former child worker: What I experienced was very hard.  I don't know what other people think about it.

6:00 NLC: Why is it hard?

6:02 Former child worker: For example, we had to hammer on the iron and our hands became stiff. Another thing is that during the cutting of the metal sheets, we have to hold onto them.  The hands go to sleep under the iron.  There are many types of risks.

6:26 NLC: Did you experience with any serious accident?

6:28 Former child worker: One day, my leg was cut.

6:36 NLC: Any other accident you have seen while you were working?..

6:38 Former child worker:  Yes, I saw one"

8:25 Former child worker: Everybody were talking about that, if a man dies, naturally people will discuss about that. Someone says 'I am going see it' another one says the same. Similarly, I went to see the dead bodies. 5-6 dead bodes were piled up. The family members were crying. Later, the ambulance came to take them.
9:05 Former child worker: Cutter men usually have to work for 8 hours. Including 4 hours OT, they work 12 hours. The labors do their duty on contract basis. They work 12 hours, 18 hours, 20 hours, like this.

9:26 NLC: They should wear gloves as they are doing very risky work. Do they have it?

9:31 Former child worker: No, they don't. Also, they should have helmet on their heads. They have only glasses on their eyes and gum boots on their feet, nothing else; they have gloves on their hands. The workers have to buy other protective clothing with their own money.

9:47 NLC: How much are they paid?

9:49 Former child worker: The helpers get 130/135 for 8 hour work; and the labors get 12/12.50 taka per hour. "

10:23 NLC: Nevertheless, workers are victim of frequent accidents, isn't that the reason?

10:26 Former child worker: Yes, for this reason and for sun heat as well. There are various reasons why I don't like it. Workers are dying and everyday are suffering from accidents.  The sun and heat are also a major reason. If it rains, we are unemployed, this is another reason"
 # # # # #

17:34 NLC: What is your job?

17:38 Islam: Cutter.

17:40 NLC Which yard?

17:51 Islam: Name of the factory is Shafiq Trading.

18:00 NLC: Shafiq Trading?

18:01 Islam: Yes"
18:21 NLC: When did you start the work?

18:23 Islam: From 8:00.

18:25 NLC: From 8:00 am?

18:26 Islam: No, no, from 8:00 pm to 8:00 am.

18:29 NLC: How many hours you have to work?

18:32 Islam: 12 hours. We can earn at least 200 to 250 taka [$2.91-$3.63] for 12 hours work.  [Note: $2.91-$3.63 for 12 hours = 24 to 30 cents an hour]

18:42 NLC: How much you are paid for an hour and how much in 8 hour.

18:44 Islam: 170 [$2.47], 160 [$2.33], 175 [$2.54], or 155 taka [$2.25] for 8 hours duty.
[$2.25 to $2.47 per 8 hour day =29 to 32 cents an hour]

18:54 NLC: What does that mean.  Who earns which amount?

18:56 Islam: Those who are a little senior (joined earlier) are paid higher like 170, 160, 180, 190 taka etc. Also, workers are paid 150 and 155 taka as well. The most senior are getting 250 or 200 taka. A helper is paid 120 taka [$1.74 a day, 22 cents an hour] in our company. Some other companies are giving 115 taka [$1.67 a day, 21 cents an hour].

19:29 NLC: Why?

19:30 Islam: We don't know.

19:44 Islam:  It is their own wish, what we can do. Everything is running by their wish, we have nothing to do.  They say if you don't like, can leave from here, what can we do.

20:22 NLC: How many years?

20:23 Islam: 15 years, not in one place, worked for many companies.

20:36 NLC: What do you do specifically? Different workers has different skills, which job you are skilled with?

20:44 Islam: My work is to cut iron"

21:15 NLC: What kind of tasks you are to perform? What types of work you have to do as technician. For example, some workers are transferring loads from one place to another"

21:50 NLC: What you do with these things, do you cut iron?

21:52 Islam: Yes.

21:54 NLC: So, your work is to cut iron, you are a cutter man?

21:56 Islam: Yes. The helpers have lots of hardship with their work. They have to pull loads, the maximum pain is borne by them. The technicians [cutters] also suffer, when we are burned all over the body.  But we are paid so minimum salary, it's not realistic.

22:26 NLC: Are the payments given everyday?

22:28 Islam: No.  Not on a daily basis, the salaries are given on 20th and 5th; sometime they delay more, for example the salary which was supposed to give on the 20th delays for 25/26th. "

23:15 Islam: If we are absent, there is no payment; if we are sick, there is no medical treatment provided by the company. We have to do it by our own money. If any places of the body are being cut accidentally, the company gives only one tablet, and that's all. If anyone dies, his rate is like a Indian cow, the company will give 20,000 taka [$291.] to the family and 30,000 taka [$436] to the police station, its fact"

24:33 NLC: I did not understand you, what happens when the workers die?

24:35 Islam: I already said; if there is any accident, the family doesn't get sufficient money. Maybe they are provided only 30 to 40 thousand taka [$436.05-$581.40] and the dead bodies may be sent to their family, like this. They spend 50 to 60 thousand taka [$726.74 - $872.09] in total.

25:02 NLC: Are workers dying very often?

25:04 Islam: Yes.

25:06 NLC: Everyday?

25:07 Islam: Not everyday, but it happens if someone has bad luck. But, smaller accidents are happing everyday.

25:15 NLC: How often are workers being killed?  Does it happen every week, every month, or what intervals? Does it happen 4/5 times a month?

25:26 Islam: Workers are dying; their legs, hands etc are broken. 

25:29 NLC: Does it happen everyday or every week?

25:37 Islam: No, that doesn't happen.

25:38 NLC: How often, how many times a month?

25:41 Islam: It may occur once a month or more. It depends on fate. For example, one worker takes a plate, takes an iron, slips down and breaks his leg or hand. Sometimes the company gives some amount of money for the medical treatment. If the injury is not recoverable, the workers are sent home. But, our main problem is the amount of salary, it is very poor. For example, a worker work over the whole night, gets only Tk. 200 [$2.91, 24 cents an hour]. Is it possible to run the family with this small amount? A helper can earn 180 taka [$2.61, 22 cents an hour].
# # # # #

00:14 NLC: Assume, you become sick while you are working, and it's not possible to come to work for 2-3 days, what happens.

00:29 Islam: No payment. It is very painful situation.  On the amount we are being given, it is very difficult to survive.

Original report

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