27 November 2007

Indiana Jones and The Temple of Minimum Wage Molten Metallurgy

I saw this photo yesterday (click it to enlarge) floating around the blogosphere and thought it was a still from the new Indiana Jones movie. Alas, it's not. It's actually dudes some 8,000 miles from Manhattan forging hot molten manhole covers. Nothing like buckets of molten metal inches from your bare feet.

A foundry is a sweltering factory which produces metal castings from either ferrous or non-ferrous alloys. Ferrous is just an expensive adjective derived from the Latin word ferrum meaning iron.

This foundry, Shakti Industries in Haora (West Bengal India), produces manhole covers for Con Edison and New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection.

I guess manhole covers manufactured in motherfuckin' West Bengal India can be anywhere from 20 to 60% cheaper than those made here. Workers at foundries in India are paid the equivalent of a few dollars a day, while foundry workers here earn about $25 an hour.

Con Ed said it did not plan to cancel any of its contracts with the West Bengal foundry after seeing the photos. Well, that's good then.

Sunil Modi, the director of Shakti Industries, says his factory follows basic safety regulations and that workers should not be barefoot. “It must have been a very hot day” when the photos were taken, he said.


Furthermore, Modi boldy claimed that there had been "no accidents, never ever. Period", however workers' rights advocates suggest accidents are largely underreported.

This was my favourite bit:

The Department of Environmental Protection, which gets most of its manholes from India, via a city spokesman, said "state law requires the city to buy the lowest-priced products available that fit its specifications." Gotta love that law.

Manhole cover photo: Triborough

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