|January 7, 2005
The Global Union Federation representing workers in
the garment industry has demanded immediate government
action in the aftermath of a factory fire that has left
at least twenty-three workers dead and many others seriously
injured near Dhaka, in Bangladesh.
The fire broke out yesterday on the fourth-four of
the building which housed the Sun Knitting and Processing
factory in Narayanganj. It took firefighters four
hours to extinguish the blaze. Dozens of workers were
injured as they desperately tried to escape down the
narrow smoke-engulfed stairs. Those who died were
unable to escape because many of the exits were blocked,
and the fire extinguishers were not working.
The ITGLWF has made approaches to Prime Minister
Khaleda Zia as well as to Minister of Labour and Employment
Aman Amanullah, asking that the authorities investigate
the fire, pay exemplary compensation to the survivors
as well as to the families of those that died, take
immediate steps to improve health and safety in the
industry, as well as take legal action against those
found responsible for criminal negligence in allowing
the existence of such unsafe conditions.
The ITGLWF has also asked the Bangladesh Knitwear
Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) to
work to improve conditions in the industry.
Warns ITGLWF General Secretary Neil Kearney: “In
the coming period, with the elimination of the MFA,
Bangladesh will face enormous competitive pressure
from China, including in the knitwear sector. Decent
working conditions are one element of competitiveness.
Tragically, factory fires are all too common in Bangladesh.
Obviously, this is very damaging to the image of Bangladesh’s
export garment industry”.
Sun Knitting and Processing Ltd was reported to be
producing clothing for export. Efforts are currently
underway to establish more information about the factory
and its retail customers.