Labour-Rights Organisations Demand Safety in Bangladesh Garment Industry

On the fifth anniversary of the collapse of the Spectrum garment factory in Bangladesh, international labour-rights organisations the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), Maquila Solidarity Network from Canada, and the International Labor Rights Forum (USA) are calling upon companies sourcing garments in Bangladesh to take coordinated measures against structural safety problems in the industry.

Amsterdam, April 11 – Today marks the fifth anniversary of the collapse of the Spectrum/Shahriyar Sweater factory, which killed 64 workers and injured 80, 54 of which were seriously injured. The Spectrum collapse focused global attention on chronic safety problems in the Bangladesh garment industry. From 2005 to 2010, at least 172 workers were killed. Most of the victims were producing clothes for well-known international brands.

A fire at Garib & Garib Sweater factory in February this year quickly spread to floors filled with inflammable materials such as wool threads. Workers cut off by the fire could not escape because emergency exits were locked and materials blocked the stairways. The fire brigade later reported they had had trouble accessing the building, and that the factory’s fire-fighting equipment was "virtually useless". Reportedly none of the security guards on duty knew how to operate fire extinguishers or hydrants.

“Most of the deaths and injuries were entirely preventable,” said Ineke Zeldenrust of the CCC, a global network of labour- and women’s rights organisations. “As is all too common in the Bangladeshi garment export industry, the factory owners had blatantly violated building code and health and safety regulations, the Bangladeshi government had failed to enforce those regulations, and European retailers sourcing from the factory had failed to detect the serious problems at the factory.”

“More could have been done by all those responsible to prevent these disasters from occurring. More needs to be done to ensure further disasters are prevented,” said Ms. Zeldenrust.

In collaboration with Bangladeshi unions and incorporating proposals developed earlier by the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation (ITGLWF) and the US-based Worker Rights Consortium, the group of organisations presented a list of actions that companies need to take within their own supply chains to prevent future tragedies. Measures include putting pressure on the Government of Bangladesh and the manufacturers’ association BGMEA to take specific actions to address these industry-wide problems in Bangladesh.

“For companies that were sourcing from factories where disasters or fatal accidents occurred, a more systemic and time-bound approach is also needed to ensure that victims and their families receive fair and timely compensation, said Khorshed Alam of the Alternative Movement for Resources and Freedom (AMRF) Society in Bangladesh.

The organisations sent the list to brands known to be sourcing garments from the factories where major health and safety incidents occurred, prior to or during the incidents.