Sunday, May 02, 2004

Workplace Safety Major Issue for May Day

May Day -- International Labor Day for most of the world -- comes just a few days after Workers Memorial Day. But for workers around the world, especially in China, workplace safety is one of the main goals that workers around the world are fighting for.
In northern China, celebrations were marred Saturday by reports that 35 coal miners had died and 16 were missing in two accidents that underscored the dismal plight of many workers on May Day.

A gas explosion ripped through a mine in northern Shanxi province on Friday leaving 35 dead and one missing, while 15 miners were feared dead from a flood in an illegally operating mine in Inner Mongolia, officials and press reports said Saturday.


In China the perilous situation of workers was highlighted by the two mine accidents.

Shanxi governor Zhang Baoshun oversaw was overseeing rescue operations and an investigation into the blast at the Liangjiahe state-owned mine, but hopes of saving 15 miners at the Xinyuan coal mine faded as water levels rose.

Han Dongfang, director of the Hong Kong-based China Labor Bulletin told AFP: "In China right now the most important thing is money, it is more important than the dignity of workers, than the rights of workers, the health of workers and the safety of workers."
The focus is on making employers responsible.
March organiser Warren Smith of the Maritime Union, said workplace safety was a theme in May Day marches around the globe and called on the government to enact laws to prosecute industrial manslaughter.

"We are seeking to place demands on employers and governments to make sure workplaces are safe," Smith said.