Bangladesh fire highlights race to make factories safe
A fire that broke out at a garment factory in Bangladesh that was supposedly "on track" with remedial action highlights the race against time to make Bangladesh's garment factories safe, according to one industry trade union.
The fire took place at around 7:30am on Tuesday (2 February) at the Matrix Sweaters factory in Gazipur, which supplies members of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. Swedish fashion retailer H&M and US department store chain JC Penney are the two customers named so far. According to the Accord, 10-15 people were injured during the blaze.
Labour rights groups including the Clean Clothes Campaign, the International Labor Rights Forum, the Maquila Solidarity Network, and the Worker Rights Consortium said they were "disturbed" by the fire at the factory, which was last inspected by the Accord in October.
While the cause of the fire is yet to be confirmed, the Accord says Matrix Sweaters was "behind schedule on a number of other fundamental life safety items". These included installing the required sprinkler and automatic fire alarm systems.
Earlier this week, H&M said its team in Dhaka was closely monitoring the situation, while JC Penney said its local Bangladesh office has been working in cooperation with Matrix and local officials to determine the cause.
IndustriAll Global Union general secretary Jyrki Raina says the fire highlights the need to make Bangladesh's garment factories safe as quickly as possible.
"It has been nearly three years since the Rana Plaza collapse and factories are still unsafe – the factory owners and brands are not doing enough to undertake the corrective action needed," he says, adding: "We will continue our relentless campaign to ensure that garment workers are not risking their lives when earning a living."
Meanwhile, Uni Global Union deputy general secretary Christy Hoffman is urging apparel brands and retailers to make sure their garments are produced in safe working conditions.
"The inspection work of the Accord has been completed for some time and – as this fire makes clear – the time for full remediation is long overdue," Hoffman explains.
"The brands must step up to their responsibility to ensure that their garments are produced in safe factories. Uni, together with IndustriAll, will do all in our power to make sure that this takes place."
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