Taking into consideration fatal construction site accidents in Tamil Nadu like the recent building collapse at Chennai, India, which resulted in the heavy loss of human lives, President of TKTMS and former General Secretary of TCWF, continues to establish alliances to ensure safe worksites for construction workers.
On July 17, 2014, as a key note speaker at the prestigious Chennai Loyola College seminar titled, “Are Construction Workers Disposable People? The Plight of Construction Workers”, Pon Kumar stated, “The series of building collapse in India in the past two years has to stop as enough workers’ lives have been lost and we cannot allow this situation to continue unchecked any further.”
He had earlier lamented that the loss of human lives could have been prevented and outlined several issues and challenges confronting the construction sector such as the disregard for OHS, skill gaps, migrant labour, violation of building norms, corruption, usage of sub-standard materials and above all undermining of workers’ and trade union rights.
Pon Kumar ended by reiterating that the BWI affiliates in Tamil Nadu are launching a state wide campaign – ‘Stop Impunity, Stop the Killings’ and are going to organise trade union awareness raising activities at major construction work sites across the city with the objective of uniting workers in pursuit of decent working conditions.
A continued dialogue with the State builders association and government agencies to make sure that the planning department applies stringent norms when issuing building plan approvals was recommended at the seminar. Furthermore, the labour department was urged to improve its onsite labour monitoring mechanism and facilitate the setting up of Joint OHS Committees at all construction sites.
The seminar was very well attended with more than 500 participants (including college students and faculty). Earlier, in his welcome address, Prof. D. Bernard Sami touched upon the prevailing situation of construction workers and their concerns in the State of Tamil Nadu.