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
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:
- The Basel World organizers ban companies that
seriously violate labour rights from taking
part in their exhibitions;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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:
Network for the Rights of Occupational Accident
Monitor Resource Centre
People’s Training and Research Center of
Action China, Hong Kong
Federation of Trade Unions, Basel
WORKRIGHT- Rights Workers Trade Union Hong Kong
Kong Liaison Office of ICFTU/GUF/HKCTU/HKTUC
Silicosis Victims in China and India
|Jewellery workers in China
||Workers awaiting justice!
|Glittering and colorful polished gemstones
||Gemstone cutting workers without protective
|Gemstone polishing and cutting
workers in India
|Indian silicosis victim