Asian factories among the least safe, group says
Asia is home to some of the most dangerous workplaces in the world, a Hong Kong-based labour rights centre says in a damning report.
Exploitative conditions expose workers to health threats such as toxic-metal poisoning even as they and their families struggle to gain recognition, compensation and justice, the Asia Monitor Resource Centre says in its report on six countries, including China.
'Sick and injured workers remain invisible, as most countries in Asia do not adequately report work-related deaths, injuries and diseases,' said Sanjiv Pandita, the centre's executive director.
'These victims are denied justice [and] their dignity. Their deaths are the price that we as a society have paid for the sake of development.'
The report came as more than 300 people marched from Temple Street to Kowloon Park in Tsim Sha Tsui yesterday to mark International Workers' Memorial Day.
They called on the Hong Kong government to establish an 'Industrial Accident Victims Day' and to review compensation policies, said Chan Kam-hong, chief executive of the Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident Victims.
The report sets out the dire state of occupational health and safety in China, India, Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia.
Wang Fengping, a factory worker from a southern Chinese province, is one victim of occupational hazards. She is struggling with kidney failure from cadmium poisoning after 14 years of working at a battery factory with poor safety standards.
Cadmium, an extremely toxic metal, is commonly found at industrial workplaces. Because the maximum safe limit for exposure to cadmium is low, overexposure may occur even in situations where only trace quantities of the heavy metal are found.
Wang has not received any compensation for her illness. Instead, she has been harassed by her employer and government officials in her fight for medical treatment and justice, she says.
'I want more people to understand what many others are going through in Chinese factories,' she said. 'Many workers have become very ill like me and have found no help or justice from their employers.'
China accounts for nearly half of Asian work-related fatalities, not only because of its large workforce but also because of a very high accident rate, according to the report.
Years of apathy by Asian governments and negligent employers towards the senseless treatment of workers necessitated the release of the report, said the Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational and Environmental Victims, which is present in 16 Asian countries.
The Asia Monitor Resource Centre was founded in Hong Kong in 1976 as a non-governmental organisation that focuses on Asian labour issues.
The estimated number of fatal occupational injuries in 2008 in Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific regions, according to the ILO