Kunshan blast exposes workers' plight

Updated: 2014-08-07 07:00

By Michele Geraci (China Daily)

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The deadly explosion in Zhongrong Metal Products Co Ltd in Kunshan, Jiangsu province, on Aug 2 that killed 75 people is yet another example of what happens in sectors that pursue profit at all costs. Such sectors always try to minimize costs by cutting expenditure on necessary safety measures and training programs.

It is always sad to see that those who pay the highest price (with their lives in many cases) of this development model are the most vulnerable segments of society, such as the blue-collar workers.

The Kunshan tragedy, to a certain extent, reflects the plight of workers during China's economic transition. Therefore, my first thoughts and prayers go to the families and friends of those who perished in this tragedy.

News reports say the Kunshan plant management did not take proper safety measures. Many workers had repeatedly manifested concerns about the safety of the workplace which were, as it often happens, ignored or, at least, not properly addressed by the company's management and safety supervising bodies.

Factories in Kunshan, infamous as they are for polluting the environment, should be seen within the context of several other so-called accidents that seem to plague China, ranging from severe water and air pollution, cadmium-contaminated rice and melamine-contaminated milk to explosions in mines.

Factories in other countries too suffer work-related accidents, but it seems that such accidents are rampant in Chinese manufacturing and other plants, because in their quest for profits they ignore workers safety and environmental concerns.

More worrying is the fact that it is not just "the evil corporations" that exploit workers and put their lives at risk to maximize profits. The poor workers, who are often middle-aged and poorly educated, in many cases have no choice but to risk the hazardous working environment to make a living.

A certain category of Chinese people, such as the unfortunate victims of Kunshan, may have chosen to accept these risks out of bare financial necessity and in the process became victims of hungry-for-profit companies that seem to pay little or no attention to the social and environmental damage they cause to contribute to economic growth.

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