Indian labourers in US shipyard allege ''inhuman'' treatment

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Washington, Mar 8 (UNI) More than 100 Indian workers at a shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, quit their jobs alleging ''inhuman'' living and working conditions.

However, their employer Signal International, in a prepared statement, vehemently denied the ''baseless and unfounded'' allegations against its Pascagoula and Texas shipyards where workers from India were hired.

It said that it sponsored the workers' temporary visas through H2B to supplement its workforce in Pascagoula and Texas, which were by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The workers alleged that they spent between 15,000 to 20,000 dollars each after recruiters with India-based consultants promised them green cards and permanent residency in the United States through the US Department of Labour's H2B visa guest worker programme, a local daily Mississippi Press reported.

Nearly 300 workers from India staged a similar protest outside the Pascagoula shipyard last March.

Stephen Boykewich of the New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice-- a group supporting the workers-- said the workers will report themselves as trafficking victims and demand that federal officials further investigate the allegations and stop further recruitments.

About 290 of the 500 Indian workers at Signal were originally hired at the Pascagoula shipyard. The company said, ''The vast majority of workers had been satisfied with both working and living conditions and hoped that Signal continued this programme.'' Signal said since the initial allegations last year, the company's employment practices and facilities have been inspected by representatives of the US Labour, Homeland Security and State departments and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The H2B employees, Signal's statement added, ''are paid in excess of the prevailing rate for their skills and they receive the same pay and benefits'' as other Signal employees.

UNI XC YA AT RN1912

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