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Action Statement at Baselworld
Compensate Silicosis Victims NOW!



While the most beautiful, glittering gem stones from all over the globe are displayed here in Basel this week in one of the jewellery industry’s largest extravaganzas, thousands of workers who polished these gemstones are quietly dying in China, India and possibly in many other countries. They are dying because their lungs have been lacerated and scarred by inhaled silica particles, causing a deadly disease known as silicosis.

China and India are the two biggest gemstone processing countries accounting for 80 per cent of the world’s jewellery export market. More than 80 per cent of the cut and polished diamonds are exported by India, followed by China. However, the jewellery sector is thriving at the expense of its workers’ lives.

We are the Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational Accident Victims (ANROAV), a network of occupational victims’ organisations from 16 Asian Countries. We are very concerned about the increasing number of silicosis cases found in the jewellery factories and processing workshops in mainland China and India. Workers involved in the cutting and polishing of gemstones are directly exposed to heavy silica dust which is the main cause of this incurable occupational disease.

Thousands of silicosis cases have been reported in jewellery factories in China since 2004, and some of those victims have already died of the disease. Others survive to carry the disease to its final, excruciating stages. Silicosis is not only an alarming occupational disease in China. In India, large numbers of workers engaged in small-scale and household factories in the agate cutting and polishing industry have died of the incurable disease. Large numbers of children have been left without either parent and in some cases, the entire family has been wiped out. In many cases one is compelled to continue working as agate worker till death.

These silicosis victims are now facing difficulties: Many of them have 1) lost the ability to work. In addition, many of them have not received treatment in time to prevent their conditions from deteriorating; 2) inadequate compensation from their employers thus they are unable to secure sufficient medical treatment and meet their families’ needs; 3) employers using and different means to evade their legal responsibilities such as relocating their factories to other areas, changing the name of the company, or sub-contracting production to cottage or household workshops ; 4.) impoverishment of the victims’ families and deprivation of the right to education for their children; and 5) an absence of any rehabilitation or health programme for the victims.

We strongly demand that:

  1. The Basel World organizers ban companies that seriously violate labour rights from taking part in their exhibitions;
  2. The Chinese and Indian jewellery companies where silicosis cases have been found immediately give compensation adequate to cover the needs of the victims and their families;
  3. The International Jewellery Trade Association (CIBJO) enforce a program that regulates its members to set up a national industrial fund to cover the compensation, medical expenses, rehabilitation of silicosis victims, and development of technology to improve workplace safety;
  4. CIBJO and jewellery retailers also develop a monitoring program with trade union and NGO participation on the labour as well as safety and health standards of the industry;
  5. The Chinese and Indian jewellery industries in particular, set up without delay regulations and mechanisms to improve the occupational safety and health as well as the working conditions of the workers, including those informally employed;

Jointly signed by:
Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational Accident Victims
Asia Monitor Resource Centre
People’s Training and Research Center of India
Labour Action China, Hong Kong
Solifonds, Schweiz
Berne Declaration
Federation of Trade Unions, Basel
WORKRIGHT- Rights Workers Trade Union Hong Kong
Hong Kong Liaison Office of ICFTU/GUF/HKCTU/HKTUC

 

Pictures of Silicosis Victims in China and India
Jewellery workers in China Workers awaiting justice!
Glittering and colorful polished gemstones Gemstone cutting workers without protective equipment
Gemstone polishing and cutting workers in India
Indian silicosis victim

 

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簽署呼籲信
國內大部份從事寶石生產的工人,因在工作環境長期吸入工序所產生的塵埃,及缺乏保護設備,而得到多種肺部的職業病。工人得病後往往沒有合理補償。這個網上簽署呼籲信的行動由香港基督教工業委員會及中國勞動透視發起,信件將會寄往國際及本港的珠寶業商會。我們請你向國際及本港的珠寶業界表達你對國內工人權益的關注。
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