December 19, 2005
CIBJO Urges Chinese Manufacturers to Compensate Workers with Silicosis
CIBJO, the World Jewellery Confederation, called upon foreign- and Hong Kong-based gemstone cutting or jewelry manufacturing operations in China, particularly in the Guangdong region, to investigate the silicosis health problems that have stricken workers there, ensure they receive proper medical treatment and provide reasonable compensation for those employees.
Silicosis is a disabling, nonreversible and sometimes fatal lung disease caused by overexposure to silica dust, which is present during stone cutting, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health at the U.S. Department of Labor. Silicosis has become less common in the U.S. since the Occupational Safety & Health Administration instituted regulations requiring the use of protective equipment that limits the amount of silica dust workers inhale.
Last week, the China Labour Bulletin, a nongovernmental organization that monitors labor conditions in China, published "Deadly Dust," a report on the silicosis epidemic among Guangdong jewelry workers. It cites what it calls defects in China's occupational illnesses prevention and compensation system. The report was published in Chinese last August, and is now in English translation at: http://www.clb.org.hk/fs/view/downloadables/Deadly_Dust_Dec2005.pdf.
"I met with CLB representatives who presented me with an outline of the report's content," said CIBJO President Gaetano Cavalieri, who was in Hong Kong attending meetings of the World Trade Organization. "Judging by the evidence that these NGO representatives presented, I felt it is imperative that our organization takes a crystal clear position in this matter," said Cavalieri. The CIBJO president met the CBL representatives in a joint meeting with Cecilia Brighi, a high-ranking official of the Italian labor union Cisl.
"CIBJO is unequivocally committed to assuring that the production of jewelry would not involve forced or slave labor or child labor; that the production of jewelry will not cause any safety or health hazards to the workers, nor to any other people who are involved in the jewelry production process, and that the process of producing the jewelry or any parts and/or components thereof will not be harmful and will have no long term effects on the workers and/or the environment," said Cavalieri.
by Peggy Jo Donahue