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INTERNATIONAL WORKERS' MEMORIAL DAY 2007

Statement for International Workers' Memorial Day, 2007

We are a group of victims of industrial accidents and diseases. Because of poor and improper workplace settings, workers have been affected by occupational diseases or hurt by industrial accidents. The injuries are not only physical, they also break hearts and minds and the damage can last for a very long time, in many cases, permanently. For some of us, these diseases and accidents means not only losing our loved ones, but also losing the sole breadwinner in a family and living in trauma and poverty since then.

Statistics shown that some 300,000 of occupational accidents happened in the last five years in Hong Kong, with more than 1,000 related fatalities. Employers put profitability as a priority and workers' safety seldom comes into their agenda. We are outraged that in many cases, law-breaking employers can easily settle the loss of their workers lives with a small amount of compensation and walk away from their legal responsibility with no other penalty.

Is a worker's life worth only a few thousand US dollars? What about a worker's dignity? Social justice? Are these empty slogans for children?

Facing permanent physical damage and an unknown future, we are angry! For our sisters and brothers who lost their lives in industrial accidents and for their shattered families, we must voice out our anger! Our society does not respect the contribution of OSH victims' and mistreats them in many ways. When victims claim compensation for their injuries, employers and insurance companies question them as if they were the criminals in a police investigation and an attempt to claim their well-deserved compensation often turns out to be like fighting a war. Widows and children are often described as greedy and unreasonable claimants when they try to get the funeral fees for their husbands and fathers.
Workers and their families contribute their health, family life and in some unfortunate cases, their lives to Hong Kong. Is this the payback? Can our society witness such an injustice and remain unmoved?

We, as victims and family members left behind, hope to push forward our demands through this statement, and a few words can cover our demands:

These are “Respect, Protection & Safety” and “Proper Respect and recognition of victims of occupational accidents/diseases”.

Our demands in detail:

Respect: The Hong Kong SAR Government should:

  • Recognize International Memorial Day.
  • Establish a monument for victims of occupational accidents & diseases in an open and popular public area.
  • Safeguard the rights of victims and their equal opportunities at different social levels.

Protection: The Hong Kong SAR Government should:

  • Include travel for going to/back from work as part of the labour insurance (unemployment) scheme
    a. Establish a Central Employees’ Compensation System so that the rights of work victims and their families can be duly protected.
    b. Set up a tribunal specifically for handling work-related injuries and occupational diseases, to reduce the workload and time required for a worker to go through the legal process.
  • Extend the scale of compensation for work-related diseases.
  • Re-examine the current compensation amounts and terms, the categories of work-related injuries and diseases covered, in order to develop a fairer compensation scheme for victims and their families.
  • Provide free legal aid to victims and their families, regardless their financial means.
  • Assist the recovery of injured workers with a better and more coherent compensation scheme with adequate rehabilitation treatment & facilities.
    a. Secure the rights of re-employment for injured workers.
    b. Ensure more rigorous prosecution and punishment of law-breaking employers.

Safety: The Hong Kong SAR Government should: 

  • Increase the number of workplace inspection and introduce programmes for employees to participate in enhancing work safety, to ensure the relevant regulations are implemented.
  • Give clear and consistent penalties to employers who violate work safety rules and regulations.
  • Keep the public better informed by regularly releasing the statistics of work-related injuries and deaths and a list of law-breaking employers.
  • Include occupational health and safety in the syllabus of secondary school education.
  • Protect all employees by drafting more adequate and updated OSH laws and ensuring their implementation.

We believe that these demands are basic and easy to fulfill. A positive and immediate respond    must be given, not only to us but also our sisters and brothers who sacrifice their lives and health for Hong Kong's prosperity. This campaign cannot end if these demands are not fulfilled.

Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident victims (ARIAV)
April 2007

Supported and cosigned by:
Association for the Rights of Industrial Accident victims (ARIAV)

 

Translated by IHLO
26 April 2007

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