The Human Element
THE HUMAN ELEMENT
In the Indian sub-continent the brick industry is an industry of poor and marginalized workers generally using labour intensive and, in many cases, back breaking work practices. The labour market, as well as occupational health and safety is completely unregulated. It is an industry in need of governmental, environmental, and labour regulation.
The workforce at kiln sites is often family or village based and has a strong migratory element. Labourers move across borders, or from villages, to work seasonally for 5-7 months, dispersing with the onset of monsoonal rains.
Bonded labour is associated with the brick industry in some brickfields. A system of advance payment loans and debt bind many adult workers and their families to kiln sites across the region. Also although it is now well documented,there is a general reluctance within the industry to acknowledge the prevalence of both bonded or child labour.
Kiln sites employ family groups, young adolescents and children. Many sites can employ 30-300 workers, others operate with up to 1500 workers.
In some settings this back-breaking and repetitive work is carried out by children as young as eight. Working long days, from sunrise to sunset, the best workers carry between 25-30 bricks per load, Approx. 80-100 kg. By the end of the day they will have moved tonnes of bricks and will have a earned a subsistence wage, equivalent to a few dollars per day. It is currently estimated that up to 28,000 children are labouring in brick kilns across Nepal. More than half these children are reported to be under the age of fourteen. Most receive no formal education.
Dangerous and unsafe working conditions mean that workers labour in choking brick dust and constantly present smoke from chimneys. They often have to climb steep inclines, both walking on, and carrying, hot bricks.
During the firing season the kiln site is home for the majority of workers, they live in makeshift, sub-standard accommodation usually made from green bricks with sheet iron (roof), weighted down by green bricks. Sanitation is poor or non-existent, clean drinking water is not readily accessible. Black carbon (soot) and fine brick dust envelops the workers, as they work, live and move about the kiln site.
The brick industries workers and their families are amongst those 865,000 premature deaths each year from inhalation of outdoor particulate matter, as estimated by the World Health Organization.
HZZK TECHNOLOGY CHANGES HEALTH, ENVIRONMENTAL AND WORKPLACE OUTCOMES
From a humanitarian perspective the Habla Zig-Zag Kiln will significantly improve kiln workers safety and work practices. The kiln provides much easier loading and unloading conditions with low ergonomic brick settings, for ease of setting and unloading. The kiln emits minimal emissions due to high combustion of fuels its burns, workers will not be subjected to working in fine brick dust or inhaling pollutants or smoke.
Brick making seasons can be extended because of the roof, which will alleviate many of the bottlenecks and rushed, dangerous practices of the workforce. Also, this results in all year round production capability and an improved overall economic outcome for the community.
THE POSSIBILITY OF INDUSTRY REFORM IS SUPPORTED BY HZZKI
The Brick Clean Group, part of the Global Fairness Initiative (GFI) and Better Bricks Nepal, has commenced a programme which aims to provide incentives to brick factory owners and to improve working conditions in the kilns. Further reading click here...
The group is encouraging factories to sign up to minimum standards for pay and working conditions that include an end to child, bonded and forced labour, the provision of toilets and drinking water, and a requirement to pay at least a minimum wage.
“We want to create standards for the industry to follow” says Homraj Acharya, Nepal’s country director for GFI> “If The factories) meet the criteria then there should be benefits. They can become torchbearers for change in the industry”. The GUARDIAN . February 2015
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